The Jubilee of Mercy began here, in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. It's the third poorest country in the world.
And this is how Pope Francis arrived in the Popemobile at the Cathedral of Our Immaculate Conception in Bangui. There he celebrated Mass for the first Sunday of Advent. But before, he delivered some improvised remarks. He called Bangui the spiritual capital of the world.
"Bangui is the spiritual capital of the prayer for God's mercy. Together let us pray for peace, mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness, love. For Bangui, for all of the Central African Republic and for the entire world and everyone who suffers from war, we ask for us peace. Together we ask for love and peace. Love and peace. Now, with this prayer, we begin the Holy Year, here in this spiritual capital of the world.”
And with that prayer and gesture, Pope Francis began the Jubilee of Mercy, opening the Holy Door in the Cathedral of Bangui.
In his homily, the Pope spoke about reconciliation and forgiveness. The Central African Republic has been faced with a civil war since 2013, in which two rival factions have pitted Muslims against Christians and other ethnicities and religions.
"One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation.”
He also spoke about hope and justice for all people who may not see positive signs on the horizon. He reminded them that God is justice and love.
"God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love!”
And before finishing, he delivered a powerful message to all of those who take up arms against each other.
"Lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace.”
The final words of the Pope's homily were familiar ones: reconciliation, love, forgiveness, and peace. They received a thunderous applause.
Some 2,500 people attended the Mass, including Imam Kobina Layama, from Bangui's central mosque. He was joined by local leaders and hundreds of pilgrims just outside the cathedral.