Reported violence near a mosque Pope Francis is slated to visit in Central African Republic caused the pontiff to reply with an immediate "can I go (be with them)?" according to a bishop who was standing close by.
After hearing of the alleged death of three youth this morning in a neighborhood of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, Pope Francis voiced his desire to go the area, though it wasn’t in the schedule.
However, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Franco Coppola, advised him against going, since it’s a dangerous area.
This is what the Bishop Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou told Spanish agency COPE during the lunch between Pope Francis and the country’s bishops.
Bishop Aguirre asked for prayers for the nation following the tragic reports that a number of people in the Fatima neighborhood of the capitol had been killed.
He explained that “this morning with all of the joy that there was in Bangui, with all of this overflowing joy... at 1.5 kilometers (from the place where Pope Francis ate with the bishops) three people were killed in the Fatima neighborhood."
“I was with the Holy Father and I told him: Holiness, this morning three people were killed in this barrio (neighborhood) where there is a parish nearby, where there are three Comboni missionaries and 500 displaced persons.”
After hearing this, “the Pope immediately asked the Nuncio: ‘can I go, can I go?’ and the Nuncio replied: ‘no, Holiness, it is very dangerous.’”
In a Nov. 29 report for Vatican Insider, Italian Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli reported that the youth had been killed with machine guns as they tried to leave Our Lady of Fatima parish in Bangui.
The church is run by the Comboni missionaries, and is located in a Muslim area where Pope Francis is scheduled to go tomorrow morning to visit the city’s most important mosque.
“They would be people hiding in the parish to avoid the Seleka militants,” Tornielli said.
In his report, Tornielli said the act occurred at 8:00a.m. local time Nov. 29. According to Notre Dame Radio of Bangui, the youth were Christians who were trying to return to their houses, which had been burned by the Seleka militants who control the area.
Details of the incident, however, are still unclear. Tornielli reported that the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, said later that only two had died instead of three. UN sources said the event was an episode of common crime, and that “there is no relation to the papal visit.”
Additionally, sources from the Comboni missionaries themselves later said it’s possible that no one died at all. Tornielli said the ambiguity surrounding the details of the event is “a sign of the confusion that reigns in the city and, above all, in the Muslim neighborhood, where the Fatima parish is located.”
Until now, he said, “the only thing certain is the story of the Spanish bishop (Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou) and the reaction of the Pope, who would have immediately wanted to go to where the events took place.
On Nov. 30, his last day in Africa, Pope Francis is scheduled for a meeting with CAR's Muslim community at the central Mosque of Koudoukou. Though many have advised against the decision, as of now it’s still on the Pope's slate.