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Pope Travels to Central African Republic
International

Pope Travels to Central African Republic

Pope Francis was due on Sunday to begin the final leg of his first African trip in Central African Republic where he will deliver a message of reconciliation and peace to a nation racked by years of violence between Muslims and Christians.
The visit to the former French colony will be the pontiff’s first trip to a combat zone and his arrival is being welcomed by both majority Christians and the Muslim minority, who hope his presence can foster renewed dialogue and ease the violence, Reuters reported.
The capital Bangui has seen a surge in clashes that have left at least 100 people dead since late September, according to Human Rights Watch, and security has been ramped up ahead of the papal visit.
France, which has around 900 soldiers deployed in Central African Republic, warned the Vatican earlier this month that the visit could be risky, and the pope’s exact itinerary has remained uncertain even in the final days before his arrival.
Gabriel Ouamale, 33, who sells souvenirs, including t-shirts and umbrellas bearing the pope’s image, in front of Bangui’s cathedral, said sales have only picked up in the past week.
“There were people who doubted, who said he couldn’t come due to the situation in the country. But the people now know he’s coming,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents are expected to turn out to greet Francis.
Others will brave rebel and militia checkpoints to travel to Bangui from the rest of the country and believers from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo will cross Ubangi River in pirogues to catch a glimpse of the pope.

 

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