NAIROBI – Pope Francis ended hi tour of South Sudan on Sunday with a call for peace in the country, urging the South Sudanese to lose no opportunity to build peace.
“Dear brothers and sisters of South Sudan, I return to Rome with you even closer to my heart. You are in my heart; you are in the hearts of Christians worldwide! Never lose hope,” the Pope said.
This was after a mega mass in Juba, where Catholic faithful in their thousands had gathered.
“We entrust to Our Lady of Africa the cause of peace in South Sudan and in the entire African continent. To Our Lady we also entrust peace in our world, especially in the many countries at war, like Ukraine, which suffers so greatly. Pray together,” the Pope said.
In his prayer, the Pontiff said, “I pray that you will be salt that spreads, dissolves and seasons South Sudan with the fraternal taste of the Gospel. May your Christian communities shine radiantly, so they show that it is beautiful and possible to live with generosity and to build together a reconciled future”.
This was the second stop on the Pope’s visit to Africa, having first visited the DRC, which is also facing problems in the eastern region, where armed groups such as M23 are causing instability.
Ahead of the Pope’s visit, at least 27 people were killed in South Sudan’s region of Kajo-Keji, a county in the Central Equatoria state on Thursday.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who will accompany the Pope to South Sudan, said he was “horrified” by the latest killings.
The Pope spoke bluntly in public about South Sudanese leadership failing to implement the peace agreement that would ensure reconciliation, unity and justice.
On Friday, the Pope met with South Sudanese who have not known peace in the more than 10 years of independence.
On his part, President Salva Kiir reaffirmed his government’s commitment to using the roadmap to fast track the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement that will pave way for general elections.
According to United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 2.2 million people have internally been displaced, in addition to over 2.3 million who have fled the country.
At least 7.7 million are food insecure.
The agency attributed this to conflict, chronic underdevelopment, and severe weather conditions. Parties to the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan agreed to extend the transitional period by 24 months from February 2023 when it should have concluded.