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Human Rights Watch

Pope brings peace message to Central African Republic

Flanked by Vatican bodyguards in flak jackets and machine-gun-toting U.N. peacekeepers, Pope Francis plunged Sunday into conflict-wracked Central African Republic and urged the country's Christian and Muslim factions to lay down their weapons and instead arm themselves with peace and forgiveness.

Francis issued the appeal from the altar of Bangui's cathedral after arriving in the badly-divided capital on the final leg of his three-nation African tour.

Schoolgirls dressed in the yellow and white of the Holy See flag and women wearing traditional African fabric dresses emblazoned with the pope's face joined government and church authorities to welcome Francis at Bangui airport...