International News

Despite Violence, Pope Will Visit Central Africa

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Despite continued instability and outbreaks of violence in the Central African Republic, the Vatican announced Pope Francis will spend about 33 hours in the country during a Nov. 25-30 visit to Africa.

Releasing the schedule for the trip, the Vatican said that while the pope is in the Central African Republic Nov. 29-30, he will visit a refugee camp, hold a meeting with evangelical Christians and visit a mosque in Bangui, the nation’s capital.

The country has known little peace or development in its 55 years of independence.

In March, 2013, a rebel movement, Seleka, led by Arab-speaking Islamists, suspended the nation’s constitution. French and African peacekeepers were deployed in January, 2014 and the rebels were driven out of the capital.

The National Reconciliation Forum, convened by the country’s transitional parliament in May, has been trying to bring Seleka and its Christian-dominated rival, Anti-Balaka, into talks and preparations for elections that originally were scheduled for Oct. 18. The vote, however, was postponed after violence broke out again in late September.

Kenya is the first stop on Pope Francis’ first visit to Africa as pope; there, too, he will meet with ecumenical and interreligious leaders, but he also will visit the Kangemi slum on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Traveling to Uganda Nov. 27, the pope will honor the memory of the 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic Ugandan martyrs, killed for their faith on the orders of King Mwanga II between 1885 and 1887.