CAR: Pope Will Visit Despite Security Concerns, Church Says

BANGUI NOVEMBER 13, 2015(CISA) – Catholic Church leaders in Central African Republic said the pope’s November 29-30 visit will go ahead, despite warnings that international peacekeepers may be unable to ensure his safety.

“We’re full of hope the Holy Father’s presence will bring great benefits by enabling our people to achieve reconciliation; we must respond to this opportunity,” Msgr Cyriaque Gbate Doumalo, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference told Catholic News Service November 12.

“The whole population is now actively preparing itself, and we think we can maintain security at least in the capital, Bangui. For the moment, there’s no reason or justification to place the visit in doubt,” he added.

On November 11, sections of the media reported that French government officials had asked the Vatican to postpone or shorten the two-day visit, after an upsurge of violence left at least 61 dead and 30,000 people displaced. Msgr Doumalo said the Vatican’s Bangui-based Nuncio, Archbishop Franco Coppola, had assured church leaders and security officials at a November 11 meeting the pope would come, “despite current anxieties,” adding that African military commanders had pledged to reinforce their 9,000-strong U.N.-backed peacekeeping forces for the event.

“Everything has been agreed and prepared in minute detail for the Holy Father’s arrival, and we’ve no alternative contingency plans,” said Msgr Doumalo.

“We can’t talk about postponing the visit, since the security teams and working commissions have all done their work. Much of the violence is taking place hundreds of kilometers away, so it can’t be seen as an attempt to sabotage the pilgrimage.”

Central African Republic has witnessed violence since Islamists suspended the constitution in March 2013.

The National Reconciliation Forum, convened by the transitional parliament in May, has brought armed factions together in preparations for the end-of-year elections and a constitutional referendum. Before visiting Central African Republic, Pope Francis will visit Kenya and Uganda.

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