The Faithful Carry On In Central African Republic

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I look through hundreds of photos a day as part of my job. But last December a set of photos came through that surprised me.

Amid all of the violence in Central African Republic (CAR), I did not expect to see images of pilgrimage and faith. In the town of Boda, Lobaye District, pilgrims gathered to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

The photos are beautiful.

The ceremony is spiritual.

I’m sharing these photos taken by Sam Phelps to show the Church’s strength when all things around it seem to be unraveling.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
Father Adelino blesses a congregation of pilgrims bowed down on the ground in prayer on a hilltop during a mass service on Dec.7, 2013. The congregation carries the statue of the Virgin Mary to this mount where it is left through the night before being retrieved at dawn the next morning.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
As night falls, pilgrims pray to the Virgin Mary statue they carried to hilltop.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
Candles are lit in a grotto containing a statue of the Virgin Mary.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
At dawn pilgrims pray on a hillside. The congregation carried the statue of the Virgin Mary to this mount where it was left through the night before being retrieved at dawn that morning.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
After a dawn mass on the hillside, the pilgrims walk back to the Catholic Church in the town for mass.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
On Dec. 8, 2013, festivities for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary continued. During mass Pere Adelino blessed the pilgrims with holy water.

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic
The violence in CAR didn’t stop these pilgrims from living their faith. But remember to pray for each and every one who is affected by the fighting and that peace will find its way into the country.

CRS and its partners are providing immediate support to vulnerable households in CAR. For more information on Central African Republic, visit Catholic Relief Services’ Emergencies blog.

Written by Melissa Stevens.

All photos by Sam Phelps for CRS.

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. We are the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a member of Caritas International and the National Catholic Development Conference. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and Pinterest.

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