Vatican City - Pope Francis called on Wednesday for an
immediate stop to violence and pillaging in the Central African Republic, three
days after president Francois Bozize was forced into exile by a bloody coup.
"I am following the situation in the Central African
Republic with great attention," Francis said in his first reference to a
specific conflict since his inauguration to the papacy last week.
"I appeal for an immediate stop to violence and
pillaging, and for a political solution to the crisis to be found as soon as
possible to bring peace," he told thousands of people gathered in the
sun-washed St Peter's Square for his first general audience.
The head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, who arrived
at the audience in his popemobile, broke with tradition by speaking only in
Italian, rather than addressing pilgrims in their native tongues.
Rebels in the Central African Republic seized the capital
Bangui on Sunday after the collapse of a two-month-old peace deal with Bozize's
regime and strongman Michel Djotodia said he plans to rule by decree until
elections in three years.