By Vatican News staff writer
After reciting the Angelus on the feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the Central African Republic, assuring that he is following events in the nation "carefully and with preoccupation".
Elections were held recently in the Central African Republic. The Pope noted that "the people have manifested their desire to continue on the path of peace."
And he invited "all parties to a fraternal and respectful dialogue, to reject hatred, and to avoid all forms of violence."
The Central African Republic is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the continent, despite being rich in resources such as diamonds and uranium. According to the UN, half of the country's population is dependent on humanitarian aid and a fifth is displaced.
Violence surrounding elections
The President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was re-elected on 27 December, with opposition candidates making claims that the election was rigged.
Since the beginning of December, the situation in the country has become very tense.
A coalition of armed groups, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), has intensified attacks after the decision of the Constitutional Court to exclude former president François Bozizé, from among the candidates.
He is supported by the rebels and opposes the current president. The Central African government and the UN have refused the rebels' request to postpone the election.
President Touadéra has allegedly accepted help from foreign countries to try to maintain control over national territory.