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Monsignor Aurelio Gazzera, coadjutor bishop-elect of the Diocese of Bangassou in the Central African Republic (CAR), has promised to promote dialogue with various rebel groups operating in the country, noting that he seeks to be a “symbol of peace” in his leadership.

In a Monday, March 4 report by the Catholic pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Gazzera, who was appointed bishop on February 23, said CAR remains “very difficult and unstable” as the situation is still “precarious in large parts of the country.”

“I will try to listen to everyone and, with my limited powers, to be a symbol of peace,” Gazzera said.He added, “I will do everything I can to continue the dialogue with the various rebel groups, and I will talk with those who are giving expression — although of course in the wrong way — to their expectations of the government and the international community.”

Armed groups have continued to wage attacks against innocent civilians in CAR.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says, in a Feb.13 report, that while the security situation in the country is improving, there are recurrent clashes between conflicting parties leading to the displacement of people and disruption to access to livelihoods. Gazzera, who is widely known for his peace efforts in the country, said in the ACN report that it was his responsibility as a religious leader to seek peace.

“As a priest, as a pastor, and as a bishop, everything that hurts or affects my brothers and sisters also hurts me. So I had the responsibility as a priest — and now I have it even more as a bishop — to look after and protect the people in my care,” the member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCD) said.

“The shepherd not only accompanies his sheep but also defends them from dangers,” said the bishop-elect who was serving as the director of Caritas in CAR’s Catholic Diocese of Bouar at the time of his episcopal appointment. Reacting to his appointment, the Italian-born bishop-elect said, “On the one hand I am anxious, but on the other hand, I feel a deep trust in God.”
“The strength to be a bishop does not come from myself, but from the Lord. I did not seek this ministry. Jesus said: ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’,” Gazzera said, and added, “I know that I am neither worthy nor capable of it, but He knows more about me than I do, and He has more confidence in me than I have in myself. And a great multitude of people are praying for me and rejoicing in this new gift in my life.”

By Magdalene Kahiu

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