Pope Francis has landed at 10 a.m. in the Republic of South Africa, the third and last stop on his journey to Africa, which will end tomorrow. The Pontiff, after a simple ceremony, has left Uganda at around 9 a.m., departing from the Entebbe airport. The intense day of appointments that awaits him will culminate with the Celebration of the Eucharist with priests, religious men and seminarians, in the Bangui Cathedral, for the opening of the Holy Door, which marks symbolically the beginning of the Jubilee of the year of mercy in the Central African Republic.
During the flight, the Pope has sent a tweet to the faithful, writing: “I am coming to the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace, and I will stay there as an apostle of hope”. Pope’s visit to the country, the part of the journey that is considered to be the most risky for the Pontiff on the black continent, will take place as scheduled. It was announced yesterday night in Kampala by the spokesman of the Holy Office, Father Federico Lombardi. “Pope’s entire program has been confirmed. There will be a flight to Bangui, as expected, and all the events of the day will be held as announced”.
After having landed at the airport of the capital, the Holy Father has been welcomed by the interim President, Catherine Samba-Panza, and a delegation of civil and political men. Then, the transfer to the Presidential Palace for a courtesy visit to the Head of State of the transition in Central Africa. Next, the encounter with the president in her residence, with the ruling class and the diplomatic corps. Then, the much-awaited visit to the St Sauveur refugee camp in Bangui. Before lunch, in Nunciature, the encounter with the bishops of the country. In the afternoon, a meeting with the evangelical communities at the Faculty of Evangelical Theology of Bangui. Finally, Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Bangui and the opening of the Jubilee of the Mercy on the African continent.
Pope’s intense day will end with the confession of some young people and the beginning of the Prayer Vigil in the cathedral of Bangui. Tomorrow is scheduled the Pope’s visit to the mosque located in the Muslim neighborhood of the capital and Mass at the sports center Barthelemy Boganda. Still according to Father Lombardi, “unless there are surprises”, the program will be respected. The commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, “was on the spot over the past few days to get in touch with the different realities responsible for ensuring the Pontiff’s safety, adding that UN and the French forces present in Bangui “will have each their specific tasks”.
During the flight from Uganda to the Central African Republic, Pope Francis has addressed some telegrams to the Presidents of the overflown Countries: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. To the president of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, he has written: “I renew my gratitude to Your Excellency and to all Ugandan people for your warm hospitality during my stay. Now that I am leaving for my pastoral visit to the Central African Republic, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and invoke divine blessings of peace, joy and prosperity for Uganda”. To the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, the Pontiff has written: “Entering the airspace of the nation, during my apostolic journey toward the Central African Republic, I send my warm greetings to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens. I invoke the blessing of the almighty God on the Democratic Republic of Congo and pray Him to grant you all the gifts of peace and prosperity”. Finally, addressing the interim President of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, he has written: “As I am entering your national airspace, I offer my cordial greetings to Your Excellency and to the people of the Central African Republic. I am looking forward with joy towards the time of my visit to the country and I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you”.