“Remember Pope Francis’ Kiss” Campaign to Foster Peace, Stability in South Sudan: Activist

Delegation of South Sudan political leaders at the Vatican with Pope Francis in April 2019. Credit:Vatican Media

A campaign dubbed “remember Pope Francis' Kiss for Peace” that was recently launched in South Sudan aims at challenging political leaders in the East-Central African nation to foster “peace and stability”, an activist involved in the campaign has said.

On Sunday, April 10, members of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) launched a campaign to recall the 11 April 2019 dramatic gesture when Pope Francis knelt and kissed the feet of President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar among others.

This was after a spiritual retreat that brought together the South Sudanese President, the opposition leader, Dr. Machar, and the widow of South Sudanese leader John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, among other political and religious leaders from South Sudan. 

Reflections during the retreat had focused on the national anthem of South Sudan under the guidance of Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Uganda’s Gulu Archdiocese, and Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator who was at the helm of the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar.

In a Monday, April 11 report by Juba Monitor, the Executive of CEPO says the “remember Pope Francis' Kiss for Peace” campaign seeks to encourage South Sudanese leaders to translate “Pope Francis kiss” into real peace.


“This offers an opportunity for calling our leader to take primary responsibility of making peace and stability prevail in the country,” Edmond Yakani has been quoted as saying in the report.

The CEPO official notes that “citizens of South Sudan have suffered a lot from violence. It is time for the citizens to feel peace and stability through the kiss of His Holiness Pope Francis.”

Three years since Pope Francis showed the dramatic gesture of humility by kneeling and kissing the feet of South Sudan leaders, the East-Central African nation is yet to achieve true peace, CEPO official says.

During the 11 April 2019 encounter at the Vatican, the Holy Father pleaded with President Kiir, rebel leader Machar, and other political leaders present to cultivate peace saying, “I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems.”

In the April 11 report, the Executive of CEPO regrets the fact that the unprecedented gesture and appeal of Pope Francis has not yet influenced the South Sudan political leaders to restore peace and stability in South Sudan.

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“Our assessment of His Holiness' kiss on our leaders’ feet is, our leaders have not honored the gesture of His Holiness Pope Francis on their feet,” Mr. Yakani says.

He adds in reference to the September 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), “The implementation of the revitalized peace agreement is slow and below expectation.”

The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive in South Sudan on July 5 in his two-African-nation ecumenical trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on July 2.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, are reportedly expected to join Pope Francis for the South Sudan ecumenical visit.

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and the third Papal visit to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population..


In the April 11 report, the CEPO official highlights the importance of their campaign to the planned ecumenical visit to South Sudan.

“Remember Pope Francis' kiss for peace campaign will also be an opportunity to mobilize the citizens for the massive reception of a joint visit of His Holiness Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to South Sudan,” Mr. Yakani says.

He says the ecumenical visit “should be a blessing to our country for the realization of peace.” 

South Sudan should “witness continued peace events through the Remember Pope Francis’ kiss for peace campaign”, the CEPO Executive says about the initiative that has been scheduled to run from April 11 - July 9.

“This will amplify voices for peace and success of the Rome peace process between the government and the parties, non-signatories to the revitalized peace agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the republic of South Sudan,” Mr. Yakani has been quoted as saying in the Juba Monitor April 11 report.

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Patrick Juma Wani is a South Sudanese journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. Patrick holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD) in Uganda. He has over 7 years of extensive experience in leading the development and implementation of media, advocacy, communication and multimedia strategy and operations, with an excellent track record of editorial leadership, budget management, and stakeholder outreach. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.