Pope Francis, who arrived conflict-ridden Central African Republic on Sunday, November 29, on his final leg of a three-nation African tour, has urged the warring factions to lay down their weapons.
"To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death!"
The country has been ravaged by sectarian violence for more than two years after longtime Christian leader Francois Bozize was ousted by rebels from the mainly Muslim Seleka force. Pope Francis opened a 'holy door' during a mass at Bangui Cathedral, marking the beginning of a Jubilee year dedicated to forgiveness and reconciliation which will be formally inaugurated on December 8.
In his address, he called for "unity, urging the people to avoid the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious denomination"
He also said he hoped the upcoming elections would allow the country to peacefully begin a new chapter.
"It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on a new chapter of its history" he said.
The Catholic leader will meet members of the Muslim community today. He will also celebrate a huge mass at the city's 20,000-seat Barhelemy Boganda Stadium.