More than 100,000 people attended the papal Mass in Juba, according to local authorities. Elias Turk/EWTN
Several African cardinals concelebrated the Mass, including Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew, archbishop of Addis Abeba; Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, archbishop of Kinshasa; and Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, archbishop emeritus of Khartoum, Sudan.
Pope Francis spent a moment in prayer before a large statue of Our Lady of Africa located beside the altar at the end of the Mass.
Pope Francis spent a moment in prayer before a statue of Our Lady of Africa. Vatican Media
In his Angelus message, he entrusted South Sudan’s peace process to Our Lady of Africa, reminding the crowd that the Virgin Mary is the Queen of Peace.
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“We pray to her now, and we entrust to her the cause of peace in South Sudan and in the entire African continent, where so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith experience persecution and danger, where great numbers of people suffer from conflict, exploitation, and poverty,” he said.
Pope Francis also recalled the testimony of Sudan’s St. Josephine Bakhita, whom he called “a great woman who by God’s grace transformed into hope all the sufferings that she endured.”
“Hope is the word I would leave with each of you, as a gift to share, a seed to bear fruit,” he said.
People attending Pope Francis' Mass in Juba on Feb. 5, 2023. Elias Turk/EWTN
The Mass concluded Pope Francis’ three-day trip to South Sudan. The pope will fly from Juba to Rome together with the archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the church in Scotland on a six-hour flight, where he will give an in-flight press conference to journalists.
The pope has called his Feb. 3-5 visit to Juba alongside Church of England Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshields a “pilgrimage of peace.”
Catholic Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba thanked Pope Francis for making the “bold decision to visit our country, which is suffering due to the consequences of the civil war.”
In the pope’s last words to the South Sudanese people before heading to the airport, Francis expressed how much he was touched by the long-awaited trip.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I return to Rome with you even closer to my heart,” he said. “Let me repeat: You are in my heart, you are in our hearts, you are in the hearts of Christians worldwide.”
“Never lose hope. And lose no opportunity to build peace. May hope and peace dwell among you. May hope and peace dwell in South Sudan!”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.