Pope Francis, he says, “could not miss out on visiting South Sudan. It is the youngest country in the world to achieve independence.”
Pope Francis expressed his desire to undertake an ecumenical visit to the world’s youngest nation alongside the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop Justin Welby, in 2017.
The initiative was halted reportedly because of heightened violent clashes in different parts of South Sudan amid a serious humanitarian crisis.
In April 2019, Pope Francis reiterated his desire to visit South Sudan during the spiritual retreat that brought together the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar, and the widow of South Sudanese leader John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, among other political and religious leaders from South Sudan.
In a February 7 report, Archbishop Welby confirmed the ecumenical visit to South Sudan, saying it would be undertaken “in the next few months.”
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On May 28, officials of the Holy See Press unveiled the itinerary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and what they described an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People”.
When realized, Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to South Sudan that is part of his two-African-nation trip scheduled to begin in DRC on July 2 will mark the first-ever Papal visit to the East-Central African nation that gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.
In his June 7 reflection, Bishop Carlassare regrets the fact that a couple of years after gaining independence, South Sudan “fell into an internal conflict over the control and sharing of resources, that seriously impacted the population, causing the disintegration of the social fabric and the consequent ethnic division.”
“There is nothing good in a conflict. War is only death and a defeat for all,” he says, making reference to Pope Francis.
The Catholic Bishop adds, “War is always a defeat of humanity. We fail in our humanity both when we are complicit in violence and when, caught up by the arrogant logic of the world, we do not commit to restore peace and fall victims of the interests of an elite.”
“We need to reclaim our humanity, rise up and unite in a common commitment to peace. This is my hope for South Sudan,” the Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese says.
Making reference to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the 44-year-old Bishop expresses the hope that “the peace agreement signed by the rulers will be followed by the awakening of the consciences of all the people, of all those young people who have been manipulated and pushed to violence.”
“The conflict is a dead end that leads us nowhere. So, I dream of a country where all ethnic groups set out for unity, perhaps guided by young people as beacons of peace who have finally become aware of their role in a country that needs vision and fresh commitment,” Bishop Carlassare adds in his June 7 reflection shared with ACI Africa.
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.
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