05 February 2018
Pope calls for ecumenical day of prayer and fasting for DRC and South Sudan
Both countries have experienced entrenched fighting and civil war
Pope Francis has called for an ecumenical day of prayer for peace, with a specific focus on people suffering as a result of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
Addressing the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope said: “Faced with the tragic protracted situations of conflict in different parts of the world, I invite all the faithful to take part in a special day of prayer and fasting for peace on 23 February, the friday of the First Week of Lent.
“I also invite non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to join us this initiative in whatever ways they deem most appropriate”, he added.
Both countries have experienced devastating civil wars and are still classified as among Africa’s least developed nations. In December, protests erupted in Kinshasa when several hundred people gathered to demand free and fair elections after President Joseph Kabila failed to step down as his mandate expired.
South Sudan has been engulfed in civil war since 2013 when the president, Salva Kiir Mayardiit, sacked the cabinet and accused Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a failed coup. According to the BBC over 2.2m people have been displaced by fighting in this landlocked country.
During a visit to All Saints Anglican Church in Rome in February, the Pope announced he and Archbishop Justin Welby were considering the “possibility” of a visit to South Sudan, but that was later said to be “suspended” due to security fears.
At the Sunday address, the Pope said he wanted to make “a heartfelt appeal” to Christians to respond to the cry of the “broken-hearted” and ask ourselves “what can I do for peace?”.
He said prayer was one way to respond and another was by working for peace as far as it depends on us.
“…the victories obtained with violence are false victories while working for peace does everyone good!” he said.
In his address, Pope Francis also assured his closeness to the populations of Madagascar, “recently hit by a strong cyclone, which has caused victims, displaced people and wreaked extensive damage” and prayed that they may be comforted and the supported by the Lord.
Finally, amongst those whom he greeted with a specific mention, was a delegation from the Sicilian city of Agrigento to whom he expressed gratitude for its commitment to welcome and integrate migrants.
Photograph: Protesters and clergymen march during a 21 January protest organised by Catholic activists in Kinshasa, Congo. (CNS photo/Kenny Katombe, Reuters).
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