Pope welcomed to Central African Republic
AP - The interim president of Central African Republic has thanked Pope Francis for his "lesson in courage" in coming to the conflict-ridden country, saying his presence showed the "victory of faith over fear."
In a welcoming address at the presidential palace Sunday, President Catherine Samba-Panza said Francis' message of peace and reconciliation was necessary. She said that all Central Africans need forgiveness and pardon, starting with herself.
She said: "In the name of the entire governing class of this country and also in the name of all those who have contributed in some way to its descent into hell, I confess all the evil that has been done here over history and ask forgiveness from the bottom of my heart."
She said she hoped Francis' visit would result in the "demons of division, hatred and self-destruction being exorcised and chased forever from our land and that our country can find again the path of a new spirituality anchored in tolerance, love of one another and respect for human dignity and established authority."
Pope Francis says he has come to Central African Republic as a "pilgrim of peace, an apostle of hope" and is encouraging the country to disarm and reconcile.
In comments upon his arrival Sunday, Francis told Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza and the diplomatic corps that he hoped upcoming elections will enable the conflict-torn country to "serenely begin a new phase of its history."
Speaking for the first time in public in French, he encouraged the country to follow a path of solidarity "for reconciliation, disarmament, consolidation of peace, health care and in the culture of a healthy administration at all levels."
He called for the country's people to recognise their "unity in diversity" — and not allow religious differences to divide them.
"It's about living and building from the marvellous diversity of the world around us, avoiding the temptation of fearing the other, of what is unfamiliar, of those who don't belong to our ethnic group, our political choices or political confession."