27 October 2016
Pope urged to make peace mission to South Sudan
There are concerns about the Pope's safety on any trip to the war-torn country
Church leaders from South Sudan have asked Pope Francis to make a joint peace mission with the Archbishop of Canterbury to the war-torn country.
Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian leaders met this morning with Francis at the Vatican after he called them to Rome for an update on the situation in their homeland.
South Sudan, which only became a state in 2011, has been riven with inter-ethnic fighting as government forces led by President Salva Kiir clashed with rebels loyal to Riek Machar, a man Kiir dismissed as his deputy in 2013.
“A visit by the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury would mean unity”, Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak, the Primate of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan, told The Tablet. “If the two leaders of the major faith groups could come and beg for peace - that would make a big impact on the country.”
Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba added that Francis told them he was “ready to visit” the country, particularly after meeting President Kiir in Uganda at the end of last year.
When asked about the security concerns of a possible visit, the Archbishop replied: “There isn’t security in South Sudan but even those rebels fighting in the bush will come out to meet the Pope.”
During the meeting this morning the Church leaders urged Francis to broker peace talks between Kiir and Machar - something he would be able to do during a visit to the country.
The president, Archbishop Loro explained, is “very much in favour” of a papal visit to South Sudan. His backing is important given that normally heads of states need to formally invite a Pope before he visits.
Francis is currently considering a possible Africa trip next year and the inter-Church work in South Sudan - which is helping hold the country together - will be attractive to him.
The Pope risked his personal safety by going to the Central African Republic last year, a visit partly inspired by the joint Catholic, Evangelical and Muslim peace efforts there.
Francis was also urged today to step up the Holy See’s diplomatic presence in South Sudan. The papal ambassador is based in Kenya and regularly visits the country, but Archbishop Loro asked the Pope today for a nuncio based permanently in the country.
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