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Pope in CAR: Christians, Muslims are Brothers

  • VOA Staff

Pope Francis arrives at the Central Mosque in the PK5 neighborhood to meet with members of the Muslim community in Bangui, Nov. 30, 2015..

Pope Francis arrives at the Central Mosque in the PK5 neighborhood to meet with members of the Muslim community in Bangui, Nov. 30, 2015..

Pope Francis is on his way back to the Vatican, ending his first African trip, which took him to three countries.

He flew out of the Central African Republic early Monday afternoon following celebrating Mass before a huge gathering at the national stadium in the capital, Bangui.

Earlier, at the main mosque in Bangui, the pope said Christians and Muslims are brothers. "Together we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself."

Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass at the Bangui stadium, Central African Republic, Nov. 30, 2015.

Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass at the Bangui stadium, Central African Republic, Nov. 30, 2015.

He said his visit to the country, which has seen political conflict and clashes between Christian and Muslim militants, would be incomplete without meeting with the Muslim community.

In his message at a Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis called on warring parties in the country to lay down their weapons and support efforts to end sectarian conflict.

Pope Francis arrives to open the holy door of the Bangui cathedral, Central African Republic, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.

Pope Francis arrives to open the holy door of the Bangui cathedral, Central African Republic, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.

"Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace," he said at the Cathedral of Bangui.

Earlier, the pope called for unity and for people not to allow religious differences to divide them. In remarks at the presidential palace in Bangui, Francis said he hopes upcoming elections will allow the country to "embark serenely on a new chapter of its history."

Pope Francis kisses a child as he visits the refugee camp of Saint Sauveur in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29, 2015.

Pope Francis kisses a child as he visits the refugee camp of Saint Sauveur in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29, 2015.

Ahead of his arrival, President Catherine Samba-Panza said people see Pope Francis as a messenger of peace and hoped he would inspire a national push for Central Africans to accept each other.

The CAR has endured nearly three years of violence since a mostly Muslim rebel group, the Seleka, overthrew President Francois Bozize in March of 2013. Killings by the Seleka triggered the rise of mainly Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka.

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