Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Central African Republic

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  Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Central African Republic
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“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation” (Is 52:7). This Bible verse is an echo to the sound of a bell that still resounds in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, just after the two day apostolic visit of Pope Francis, Sunday 29 and Monday 30 November 2015, says our brother Marcel AGALANI, O.P., of St. Dominic House of Bangui. The Central African people were worried or pessimistic at some point about the actual realization of this long-awaited visit. But when the time came, they stood up as one man to offer a warm welcome and a pleasant stay to the Holy Father. Brother Marcel shares with us the immense joy of this memorable event in which the Dominican Family of Bangui had been very involved.

People came from everywhere, from north to south, from east to west, these Catholic pilgrims, Protestants, Muslims and others, to see with their eyes this rare and special event. So, these are Central Africans irrespective of ethnic groups and religions who felt affected by this visit of the Pope; evidenced by the number of people massed along the road from the airport to the presidential palace and the presidential palace to the Nunciature to greet the passing of the Pope.

What about the mobilization and the sheer number of people who stormed the esplanade of the Cathedral Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Bangui to take part in the great vigil held on November 29, the opening day of the first "holy door" of the Jubilee of Mercy? This vigil took place after the Pontifical Mass presided by the Holy Father in this Cathedral before an audience of bishops, priests, religious male and female, and lay people from all over the country, throughout the sub-region of Central Africa and around the world.

Finally, what about this stadium filled with about 30,000 people, this crowd of over 20,000 other people massed around the stadium Bartholomew Boganda, before giant screens, and all these people coming this November 30, the feast day St. Andrew the Apostle, to intensely live this moment of grace punctuated by the Eucharistic celebration which was the last step of this apostolic visit of Pope Francis?

In his homily Pope Francis urged all Central Africans "to get to the other shore." In other words, break the vicious circle of hatred, violence and revenge, which still haunts the heart of some people, to resolutely take the path of reconciliation, justice and peace. In ecumenical and interreligious dynamics, he invited all believers "to the duty of peace and fraternity" because he said, "no religion, in the name of God, can preach violence and hatred of neighbor”. The Holy Father had already demonstrated this invitation to live together by meeting the Protestants at the Faculty of Theology and Biblical Studies (FATBS) and Muslims at the Central Mosque of Bangui.

We cannot conclude our sharing without talking about the active participation of the members of the Dominican family of Bangui. The brothers, sisters and the members of Dominican Youth who were asked to be part of the various commissions (logistics, finance, welcome) responded favorably to the request. And all those who were not in the commissions, responded with their presence in the various places that celebrated this special time of grace, which was given to us by this stay of the Holy Father with us.

This apostolic visit of Pope Francis in Bangui therefore is no more an utopia but is now written in gold letters on one of the most beautiful pages in the history of the Central African Republic. May this visit of the Holy Father, which aroused so much hope among the Central African people, be the start of a new life based on justice, reconciliation and peace. May God bless the Central African Republic.

fr. Marcel AGALANI, O.P.

 

(02 December 2015)