Pope Francis makes first peace appeal since taking office

Pope Francis is given a paper cut-out heart reading "Hurray Pope Francis" as he driven through the crowd in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 27, 2013.
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis has called for an end to the violence and looting that has accompanied the weekendcoup in the Central African Republic in his first such appeal for peace since becoming pope.

During his inaugural general audience Wednesday, Francis called for an immediate political solution to the conflict.

More than 1,000 armed rebels from the alliance known as Seleka attacked the capital Bangui on Saturday, forcing longtime President Francois Bozize into exile in neighboring Cameroon. Widespread looting followed, including of hospitals.

Francis, who named himself after St. Francis of Assisi who worked for peace and the poor, has said he will prioritize the poor and disadvantaged during his papacy.