11/30/2015, 00.00
VATICAN - CAR
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Pope to Bangui, sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims "disfigures the face of God"

Francis visits Kaudoukou mosque and says " no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, God salam". At Mass he calls on faithful to carry on work of missionaries, looking at '' other side '. "Every baptized person must continually break with the old man, sinful man, always ready to awaken to the call of the devil."


Bangui (AsiaNews) - Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims, who are "brothers" and should behave as such "disfigures the face of God", said Pope Francis at the Kaudoukou Mosque (pictured), in the Central African Republic (CAR)  torn apart by years of war that has pitted Christians and Muslims on opposite sides.

Pope Francis devoted the last day of his first visit to the country to this place, before heading into the stadium of the sports complex "Barthélémy Boganda" to celebrate a Mass in which, along with the instruction to spread the faith, he thanked God "for the courage He puts into our souls to establish ties of friendship, dialogue with those who are not like us, to forgive those who have done evil, to commit ourselves to building a more just and fraternal society."

At the mosque, where he was greeted by five imams, Francis did not only speak of violence founded "on religious grounds not properly", but went in front of the mihrab, the point which indicates Mecca, and stayed there in a moment of silent recollection, but, leaving the mosque he wanted to visit the refugees gathered in tents and a school in Koudoukou, where Christian and Muslim children study together.

These are significant gestures as was the recommendation that "the next national elections (which should be held in December, under the protection of UN forces, ed) give the country leaders who know how to unite Central Africans, and thus become symbols of the unity of the nation rather than representatives of a faction. "

The Pope returned to this subject in his speech at the mosque:  "Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.  We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such.  We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives.  Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace.  Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.  They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.  Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, God salam".

Many gestures of solidarity between Christians and Muslims

"In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment.  They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all.  I would like express my gratitude and appreciation for this.  We can also call to mind the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions, by welcoming them and defending them during this latest crisis in your country, as well as in other parts of the world.

We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.  It will prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right".

The plight of  CAR today, was also the focus of Francis during Mass, when he urged Christians to look to "the other side", to eternal life. " Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination.  In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore.  All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil.  How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war!  How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable... ".

25 thousand faithful gathered in the stadium Barthélémy Boganda for an "African" Mass, also made of dancing, singing and music that expressed the joy of men, women and children dressed in traditional clothing.

Francis invited them "to reflect with amazement on the great missionary effort which – not long ago – first brought the joy of the Gospel to this beloved land of Central Africa.  It is good, especially in times of difficulty, trials and suffering, when the future is uncertain and we feel weary and apprehensive, to come together before the Lord.  To come together, as we do today, to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us.  For he invites us to cross over to another shore (cf. Lk  8:22). This other shore is, of course, eternal life, heaven, which awaits us.  Looking towards the world to come has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage.  Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world.  It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love. But the more immediate other shore, which we are trying to reach, this salvation secured by the faith of which Saint Paul speaks, is a reality which even now is transforming our lives and the world around us.  “Faith in the heart leads to justification” (Rom 10:10).  Those who believe receive the very life of Christ, which enables them to love God and their brothers and sisters in a new way and to bring to birth a world renewed by love".

Dialogue with those who are not like us, forgive those who have hurt you,

"Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief.  Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future.  Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned.  In all these things, the Risen Christ takes us by the hand and guides us.  I join you in thanking the Lord in his mercy for all the beautiful, generous and courageous things he has enabled you to accomplish in your families and communities during these eventful years in the life of your country "

" Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief.  Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future.  Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned.  In all these things, the Risen Christ takes us by the hand and guides us.  I join you in thanking the Lord in his mercy for all the beautiful, generous and courageous things he has enabled you to accomplish in your families and communities during these eventful years in the life of your country.

Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination.  In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore.  All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil.  How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war!  How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…

We know that our Christian communities, called to holiness, still have a long way to go.  Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel.  May the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which has just begun in your country, be an occasion to do so.  Dear Central Africans, may you look to the future and, strengthened by the distance you have already come, resolutely determine to begin a new chapter in the Christian history of your country, to set out towards new horizons, to put out into the deep.  The Apostle Andrew, with his brother Peter, did not hesitate to leave everything at Christ’s call: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:20).  Once again, we are amazed at the great enthusiasm of the Apostles.  Christ drew them so closely to himself, that they felt able to do everything and to risk everything with him.

Each of us, in his or her heart, can ask the crucial question of where we stand with Jesus, asking what we have already accepted – or refused to accept – in responding to his call to follow him more closely.  The cry of “those who bring good news” resounds all the more in our ears, precisely when times are difficult; that cry which “goes out through all the earth... to the ends of the earth” (Rom 10:18; cf. Ps 19:4).  And it resounds here, today, in this land of Central Africa.  It resounds in our hearts, our families, our parishes, wherever we live.  It invites us to persevere in enthusiasm for mission, for that mission which needs new “bearers of good news”, ever more numerous, generous, joyful and holy.  We are all called to be, each of us, these messengers whom our brothers and sisters of every ethnic group, religion and culture, await, often without knowing it.  For how can our brothers and sisters believe in Christ – Saint Paul asks – if the Word is neither proclaimed nor heard? We too, like the Apostles, need to be full of hope and enthusiasm for the future.  The other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us.  He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him.  Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country. May the Virgin Mary, who by sharing in the Passion of her Son, now shares in his perfect joy, protect you and encourage you on this path of hope".

A thought, finally, at the end of the Mass for the Ecumenical Patriarchate which today celebrates its patron saint. "On this feast of Saint Andrew - said the Pope - from here, from the heart of Africa I would like to turn to my dear brother Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch. My best wishes for happiness, fraternity, and I ask the Lord to bless our sister churches. "

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