Catholic World News

Catholic World News

Christians can find unity in suffering, Pope Francis tells Evangelicals in CAR

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to Christian unity includes shared suffering, Pope Francis told the Central African Republic’s evangelical Christian communities on Sunday, exhorting them to continue showing charity amid war and violence.

“God makes no distinctions between those who suffer. I have often called this the ecumenism of blood. All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil,” he said Nov. 29.

He especially expressed his closeness to a pastor whose home, which served as a meeting place for his community church, was ransacked and set on fire.

“In these difficult circumstances, the Lord keeps asking us to demonstrate to everyone his tenderness, compassion and mercy,” he said.

The Pope’s comments came at a gathering at the Evangelical Faculty of Theology in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui. He is in the country Nov. 29-30 at the close of his visit to Africa, having previously visited Kenya and Uganda.

Pope Francis told the Evangelical communities that such suffering and shared mission are a “providential opportunity for us to advance together on the path of unity.”

“How could the Father refuse the grace of unity, albeit still imperfect, to his children who suffer together and, in different situations, join in serving their brothers and sisters?” he asked.

The Central African Republic suffered tensions that erupted into war in late 2012. Predominantly Muslim rebel groups in the country’s north formed an alliance and called themselves Seleka. They traveled to the capital and seized power from its then-president.

In reaction, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called the anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

At least 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting, with many more displaced. The country is now governed by an interim president. It will hold presidential and parliamentary elections Dec. 27. The elections had been postponed in October due to violence and instability.

The Pope reflected on how the violence has caused great suffering for Central Africans.
“This makes the proclamation of the Gospel all the more necessary and urgent,” he said. “For it is Christ’s own flesh which suffers in his dearest sons and daughters: the poorest of his people, the infirm, the elderly, the abandoned, children without parents or left to themselves without guidance and education. There are also those who have been scarred in soul or body by hatred and violence, those whom war has deprived of everything: work, home and loved ones.”

Pope Francis characterized the lack of Christian unity as a scandal that is contrary to God’s will.

“It is also a scandal when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart, and the many forms of opposition which the Gospel of Christ encounters.”

He encouraged the Evangelicals to continue common service in charity, as “a witness to Christ which builds up unity.” He also encouraged them to commit to prayer and common reflection so as to help achieve greater mutual understanding, trust, and friendship.

“All of us are here in the service of the risen Lord who assembles us today; and, by virtue of the common baptism we have received, we are sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to men and women of this beloved country of Central Africa.”

Catholic World News

FORUM: From Parish to Paris

This reflection is by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, OFM

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” These words from the popular prayer attributed to St. Francis come to my mind as international negotiators and the world’s religions gather in Paris seeking to address climate change. 

As Pope Francis reminds…

Catholic World News

‘Peace Without Tolerance, Forgiveness Isn’t Possible,’ Pope Tells Refugees in CAR

We must work and pray and do everything for peace. The Holy Father gave this exortion when speaking off-the-cuff to the St. Sauveur Refugee Camp in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui, after saying he had read the signs of the children present displaying the words ‘peace,’ ‘forgiveness,’ ‘unity,’ and ‘…

Catholic World News

Pope to displaced persons: peace is impossible without tolerance, forgiveness

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 08:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ first stop after arriving in the Central African Republic Sunday was to a refugee camp housing thousands of persons displaced by the country’s ongoing conflict.

Upon his arrival at the camp Nov. 29, the Pope  was greeted by children living there, who held up signs displaying words such as “peace,” “love,” “unity,” and “pardon.”

After greeting the children, Francis made his way through the camp before speaking briefly off-the-cuff to its inhabitants.

“I saw what the children have written (on the signs),” he said, explaining that “we must work and pray; do everything (possible) for peace.”

However,  he cautioned that  “peace without love, without friendship, without tolerance, without forgiveness, isn’t possible. Each one of us must do something.”

The Pope then expressed his desire that all Central Africans would have “great peace among you … regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, or social status.”

Located at the parish of St. Sauveur in Bangui, the camp is home to 1,000-2,000 people displaced by violence and conflict.

Pope Francis’ Nov. 29-30 visit to the Central African Republic comes at the end of a larger tour of the African continent. Before arriving, he also visited Kenya and Uganda.

The stop in CAR also marks the first time since his election that Francis has set foot in an active war-zone.  The conflict, which has largely religious and ethnic roots, has so far left some 6,000 dead, and many thousands of persons displaced. 
Armed conflict began in late 2012 when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka. They left their strongholds in the north of the country and made their way south, seizing power from then-president Francois Bozize.

Since then, fear and uncertainty have gripped the nation, and the country’s current leadership has struggled to maintain peace, leading ordinary citizens to take up arms.

The fighting has been compounded by the fact that Christians were being targeted once the rebels launched their offensive, leading to anti-Muslim sentiments and revenge attacks on Muslims.

At a Nov. 19 press briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis is visiting CAR precisely “to show that he’s close to the people who suffer.”

This, he said, is also why the refugee camp was Francis’  first stop after meeting the authorities.

In his comments to the refugees, Pope Francis stressed that no matter their religious or ethnic background, everyone must be in peace, “everyone! Because we are all brothers.”

He asked those present to repeat it aloud, noting that “because we are all brothers, we want peace.” He then gave them his blessing and asked for their prayers before heading to the apostolic nunciature for a private meeting with the country’s bishops.

In another symbolic gesture, Pope Francis is set to jump-start the Jubilee of Mercy by opening the Archdiocese of Bangui’s Holy Door during Mass at their cathedral the evening of Nov. 29.

Though the Jubilee for Mercy doesn’t begin until Dec. 8, Francis announced earlier this month that he decided to open the Holy Door in the Central African Republic’s capital 10 days early as a sign of prayer and solidarity with the war-torn nation.

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