Pope visits South Sudan: “Enough destruction, it’s time to build!” ” – World
Pope Francis is due to meet internally displaced people in South Sudan this Saturday, after urging its leaders to “a new leap” for peace in a country torn apart by power struggles and extreme poverty. Accompanied by the heads of the Churches of England and Scotland, representatives of the two other Christian denominations of the youngest state in the world, Francis estimated on Friday that the “tortuous path” of peace could “no longer be postponed”, during a very political speech before the authorities in the capital Juba.
From 2013 to 2018, this country of 12 million inhabitants was plagued by a bloody civil war between supporters of the two enemy leaders Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, which claimed 380,000 lives. On Saturday morning, the sovereign pontiff spoke to bishops, priests and Catholic religious at Sainte-Thérèse Cathedral. Arriving in a wheelchair amid chanting, the pope asked the clerics to “walk in the midst of suffering and tears” and to “get their hands dirty for the people.”
“It’s all about peace”
Despite a peace agreement signed in 2018, violence continues and the country had 2.2 million internally displaced people in December, due to conflicts and floods, according to the latest figures published by the UN body OCHA. Saturday afternoon, the Argentine pope, very attached to the defense of migrants, will address some of them during a meeting.
Some 4,000 people gathered, according to the authorities, very early to wait for the sovereign pontiff in the courtyard of the Sainte-Therese Cathedral, many waving national flags and shouting dinghies, in a festive atmosphere. “We came here to receive his blessings. It’s all about peace. Pope Francis can’t even walk, but he still comes here to encourage our leaders,” said John Makuei, 24, who arrived before dawn so as not to miss this “historic day”.
At the end of the day, the pope will deliver his third and last address of the day during an ecumenical prayer alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, and Iain Greenshields, personality largest in the Church of Scotland.
Friday, the pope did not mince his words in front of the political class of this country with 60 ethnic groups, where misery and famine are rife. “Future generations will honor or erase the memory of your names depending on what you do now,” the 86-year-old pope warned, aware of his “blunt and direct” words. “Enough bloodshed, enough conflicts, enough violence and reciprocal accusations against those who commit them, enough to abandon the people thirsty for peace. Enough destruction, it’s time to build! “, he enjoined.
This “peace pilgrimage” is the first-ever papal visit to South Sudan since the Christian-majority nation gained independence from Sudan in 2011. The Church plays a surrogate role in areas without any government service and where aid workers are often attacked and even killed. The NGO Human Rights Watch on Friday called on religious leaders to put pressure on the leaders of South Sudan to “address the current human rights crisis in the country and the widespread impunity”.
After his meeting with the pope, Salva Kiir announced in a decree that he was pardoning 71 prisoners, including 36 on death row, but without giving further details. “When he hit the ground in Juba, we all felt blessed. His presence will bring us lasting peace, ”assured Gladys Mananyu, 62, after the passage of the popemobile.
In 2019, a year after a peace agreement, Francis had received the two enemy brothers at the Vatican and knelt down to kiss their feet, begging them to make peace, a strong symbolic gesture that had marked the spirits. This trip follows a four-day visit to Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He condemned the “atrocious cruelties” in this country where the abuses of armed groups have killed hundreds of thousands of people and thrown millions of others on the roads.
Initially scheduled for the summer of 2022 and then postponed, this visit is the 40th visit of the Argentine pope abroad since his election in 2013, and the third in sub-Saharan Africa.
letelegramme Fr Trans