Published: Sun, April 14, 2019

Pope kisses feet of South Sudan's leaders to encourage peace

Pope kisses feet of South Sudan's leaders to encourage peace

Pope Francis has kissed the feet of South Sudan's previously warring leaders during a two-day spiritual retreat at the Vatican.

"I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace".

They however signed a peace agreement previous year that brought the war to an end.

"We have refugees who will not return if they don't feel secure, we have IDPs (internally displaced people) in the capital and in other major cities who will not go back to their homes which they have left five and a half years ago because of security problems", he said.

Closing his prepared remarks with a prayer, he asked God "to touch with the power of the Spirit the depths of every human heart, so that enemies will be open to dialogue, adversaries will join hands and peoples will meet in harmony". He and Pope Francis have been supporting the peace efforts of the South Sudan Council of Churches and, the pope said again, they hope to visit South Sudan together when there is peace.

In his address earlier on Thursday, Francis said South Sudan's people were exhausted by war and the leaders had a duty to build their young nation in justice.

The 82-year-old pope pleaded for peace in a striking gesture during a meeting with leaders from the troubled country that gained independence from neighbouring Sudan in 2011 and then was mired in a violent internal conflict.

More than a third have been uprooted from their homes and around 400,000 have died in the civil war, which plunged parts of the country into starvation and has been characterized by such extreme sexual violence and widespread ethnic cleansing that the United Nations warned in 2017 of a possible genocide.

Political leaders in South Sudan are concerned about the effects of the Sudanese military rule on the unity government that's due to kick off in Juba.

In a report by Reuters, it was gathered that the event played out Thursday, April 11, during the pope's short retreat at the Vatican. "So, as simple citizens, you will become fathers of the nation." .

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