24 December 2020, The Tablet

Pope renews pledge to visit South Sudan

Pope renews pledge to visit South Sudan

People celebrate the signing of a final peace deal in Juba, South Sudan, in October this year.
Denis Elamu/PA

Pope Francis has renewed his pledge to visit South Sudan, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

In a Christmas message to the country's political leaders, the three church leaders say: “In this Christmas season, we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world among the least – in a dusty stable with animals. Later, he called those who wish to be great in his kingdom to be the servant of all.

“We remain prayerfully mindful of the commitments made at the Vatican in April 2019 – yours to bring your country to a smooth implementation of the Peace Agreement, and ours to visit South Sudan in due course, as things return to normalcy.

“We have been glad to see the small progress you have made, but know it is not enough for your people to feel the full effect of peace.”

Pope Francis, along with Archbishop Justin Welby and the Rev’d Martin Fair, hope to visit South Sudan next year. 

In their joint message, they say: “When we visit, we long to bear witness to a changed nation, governed by leaders who, in the words of the Holy Father last year, ‘hold hands, united ... as simple citizens’ to ‘become Fathers (and Mothers) of the Nation’.

“We pray, this Christmas, that you will know greater trust among yourselves and a greater generosity of service to your people. We pray you know the peace that surpasses understanding in your own hearts and in the heart of your great nation.”

In a further Christmas greeting today to the people of Lebanon, addressed to Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Pope Francis says: “Great is my pain in seeing the suffering and anguish that suffocates the innate resourcefulness and vivacity of the Land of the Cedars. 

“Even more, it is painful to see all the dearest hopes of living in peace kidnapped and of continuing to be a message of freedom and a testimony of good living together for history and for the world; and I who take part with a true heart, as in all your happiness, so also in all your sorrows, I feel the gravity of your losses in my heart, especially when I think of the many young people who are deprived of all hope of a better future.”

He pledges his affection for the Lebanese and says he also intends to visit Lebanon also as soon as possible.

He appeals to the international community to help Lebanon stay out of regional conflicts and tensions. “Let's help him get out of the serious crisis and recover. Beloved sons and daughters, in the darkness of the night look up, may the star of Bethlehem be your guide and encouragement to enter into God's logic, so as not to lose your way and not to lose hope.”


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