Pope makes final bid for peace and forgiveness in South SudanComments
Pope Francis wraps up his pilgrimage to South Sudan with an open-air Mass on Sunday after urging its leaders to focus on bringing peace to the fragile country torn apart by violence and poverty.
Francis begged South Sudanese people to lay down their weapons and forgive one another.
“Even if our hearts bleed for the wrongs we have suffered, let us refuse, once and for all, to repay evil with evil,” Francis said. “Let us accept one another and love one another with sincerity and generosity, as God loves us.”
His message aimed to revive hopes in the world's youngest country, which gained independence from the majority Muslim Sudan in 2011 but has been beset by civil war and conflict.
President Salva Kiir, his longtime rival Riek Machar and other opposition groups signed a peace agreement in 2018, but the deal’s provisions, including the formation of a national unified army, remain largely unimplemented and fighting has continued to flare.
“We need permanent peace now and I hope these prayers would yield to lasting peace, said the 66-year-old mother of seven who wiped a tear from her eye as she waited for Francis' Mass to begin.
The Vatican said more than 100,000 people attended the service, filling the field of the Garang Mausoleum and surrounding roads.
During the three-day visit, Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields sought to draw attention to the plight of South Sudan's most vulnerable people, the women and children who have borne the brunt of displacement and make up the majority of people living in temporary camps.
Sexual violence is rampant
In South Sudan, child brides are common and the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world.
Edmund Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, said the visit of the three leaders was an important push to the peace process.
He called it a “critical exposure of our political leaders towards their personal responsibility for making peace and stability prevail in the country.”
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