Condemning the "bloody clashes" in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s restive Kasai provinces, Pope Francis has called for peace in the country's South Central region.

At least 400 people have been killed in the past six months in four provinces in the central DRC (Kasai-central, Kasai, Kasai-Oriental and Lomami) following clashes between a local militia, Kamwuina Nsapu and the country's security forces.

Celebrating an open-air mass on 2 April in the Italian northern town of Carpi, Pope Francis denounced the ongoing violence in the Kasai.

"News is still coming of bloody armed clashes in the Kasai provinces of the DRC, fighting which has led to human casualties and displaced persons and is also affecting the people and property of the Church," the Pope is quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

"I urge all to pray for peace so that the hearts of the perpetrators of these crimes will not remain slaves to hatred and violence," the cleric said before 20,000 faithful.

The Pope's comments come after the Congolese episcopate and the Pope's personal representative in Kinshasa on Thursday (30 March) urged the Congolese security forces - who have been accused of serious human rights violations in their repression of the rebellion – to exercise "restraint" and a proportionate use of force in its operations.

Earlier last month, the Congolese police accused the militia of having massacred 39 policemen in the area. Two UN experts who were investigating violations in Kasai, and their colleague, were found dead two weeks after they went missing on 12 March.

Pope Francis last month announced he will not visit the DRC, as was initially planned.

A visit was planned for the summer, but the political crisis that persists in the DRC and seemingly poor relations between the Church and the regime of Congolese President Joseph Kabila have led the Pontiff to review his trip.

Christianity is the majority religion in the DRC, followed by about 80% of the population, of which 50% are Catholics. As Kabila's second term ended, the Catholic Church was called in the hope it could broker an agreement between the presidential majority and the opposition in a bid to avoid bloodshed.