Political and religious leaders in Central African Republic have reassured the Vatican that the pope would be safe when he visited on Nov. 28-29 as the United Nations also prepared to add troops.
Pope Francis will visit the country amid intensifying violence in a twoyear conflict that has pitted mostly Muslim rebels against Christian militias, killing dozens in the capital Bangui since late September.
Francis hinted in a speech on Nov. 1 that his trip to Central African Republic could be canceled if violence worsens. He will also visit Kenya and Uganda.
“The arrival of the pope will be a great blessing, and I want it to happen regardless of the fate reserved for us,” interim President Catherine Samba- Panza told French radio station RTL.
General Chrysostome Sambia, the minister of public security, said the government had a plan to secure the pope’s visit. “I will do my very best to ensure it is well-implemented.”
Deputy archbishop for Bangui Jésus Martial Dembele expressed hope that the trip would proceed peacefully.
A U.N. official said its peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) plans to add 750 troops and 140 police in time for December elections, set to end a transition period.
“Some reinforcements should be in theater before the pope’s visit,” the official said, adding that MINUSCA was working closely with both the government and the Vatican.
Former colonial power France said this week it has halted for now its drawdown of troops which once numbered 2,000 but have been scaled back as U.N. reinforcements arrive.
But there was no abatement in violence on Thursday.