VATICAN CITY- Pope Francis on Sunday voiced "great concern" over a fresh outbreak of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, four weeks ahead of a planned visit to the troubled country.
"The painful events that have worsened an already delicate situation in the Central African Republic in recent days are of great concern to me," the pope told pilgrims in St Peter's Square.
On Saturday, Muslim militants killed at least two people and wounded several in a Christian neighbourhood of the capital Bangui.
The military said several hundred people fled the area fearing further violence.
The fresh unrest came two days after four people were killed and around 20 wounded in Bangui in a reprisal attack avenging the deaths of two Muslims.
One of the poorest and most unstable countries in Africa, the landlocked former French colony plunged into chaos after president Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013.
The mainly Muslim Seleka rebels behind the coup went on a bloody rampage that triggered the emergence of equally dangerous anti-balaka (anti-machete) militias in mostly Christian communities.
"I appeal to all those involved to put an end to this cycle of violence," Francis said after his regular Sunday recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The 78-year-old pontiff then confirmed that he planned to visit Bangui on November 29, saying he "hoped" the visit would go ahead.
The pontiff plans a six-day African tour, his first to the continent, that will also take him to Kenya and Uganda, beginning on November 25.