ROME — Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for the “architects of … crimes” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to not “remain slaves of hatred and violence,” during his remarks after praying the Angelus during his one-day trip to the Italian town of Carpi.

The south-central region of the Congo has been hit by violence since the arrest of a militia leader last August. Since then, more than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 others forced from their homes.

The mayhem took a turn for the worse last week when 42 policemen were decapitated by members of the militia. The officers were on a mission to search for two members of a United Nations Security Council investigating team who had gone missing. The two an American man and a Swedish woman were later found murdered and buried in a shallow grave.

Francis said the “bloody clashes” are also affecting “churches, hospitals, and schools,” run in the region by Catholic institutions, which provide much of the social services in the country.

The pope assured the people of his prayers, and asked for people to “pray for peace so the hearts of the the architects of such crimes do not remain slaves of hatred and violence, because hatred and violence always leads to destruction.”

The pontiff also turned his attention to Latin America, where in Colombia more than 250 people have died after a mudslide in the town of Mocoa.

Torrential rains sent mud and debris crashing into houses as people slept, so they had no chance to escape. Hundreds of people are still missing.

Francis prayed for the victims, assured those mourning the death of their loved ones of his solidarity, and thanked all those working to bring relief.

The pope also said he was “following with great attention” the events in Venezuela and Paraguay.

Venezuela’s political crisis has gotten worse in recent days.

The country’s bishops conference has issued a statement saying that perhaps the time has come for civil disobedience and peaceful protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who on Wednesday attempted to abolish the opposition-led national assembly.

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In Paraguay, violent protests erupted against a bill which would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for a second term.

Francis asked people in both countries to “tirelessly persevere in their search for political solutions, avoiding any kind of violence”.

The pontiff was on a day-trip to the northern Italian town of Carpi, in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, which was badly damaged by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region in May 2012. Despite the devastation, the region has largely been rebuilt. 

Upon arriving to Carpi, Francis celebrated Mass for an estimated 20,000 people who’d gathered in the piazza outside the cathedral for an open-air Mass.

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“There are those who remain buried in the rubble of life,” the pope said in his homily. “And there are those, like you, who with the help of God rise from the rubble to rebuild.”

After the Angelus, the pontiff blessed four stones which will be used to form cornerstones of four new diocesan buildings being built, including a new parish church.