Pope Francis calls for peace in DR Congo

Pope Francis urges people to pray for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Pope Francis on Sunday called for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, urging an end to the bloodshed in the troubled Kasai region.

"News continues to arrive of bloody clashes in Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- fighting which drags in victims and displaced persons," the pontiff told some 20,000 faithful at a mass in Carpi, the northern Italian city that was hit by two deadly earthquakes in 2012.

"I urge everybody to pray for peace, that the hearts of those behind these crimes do not remain enslaved by hatred and violence," the pope said.

At least 400 people have died in six months of unrest which has hit the provinces of Kasai-Central, Kasai, Kasai-West and Lomami.

The remote region has been plagued by violence since mid-August, when government forces killed Kamwina Nsapu, a tribal chief and militia leader who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila's central government.

Congolese church leaders and the papal representative in Kinshasa on Thursday urged the DRC's security forces, widely accused of brutal treatment of opponents, to refrain from using disproportionate force during operations.

Last month, the police accused rebels of killing 39 officers in Kasai, and last week the bodies of two UN contractors were found after they were kidnapped in Kasai-Central.

The two foreigners were kidnapped by unidentified assailants on March 12 along with four Congolese accompanying them.

Pope Francis also said that the people of Colombia were in his thoughts after a huge mudslide in the town of Mocoa on Saturday killed some 200 people, a disaster which left him "profoundly saddened".

The pontiff always said he was praying for Venezuela and Paraguay amid growing political unrest in both countries.

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