Photo Credit: Gavin Drake
[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] During a meeting with South Sudanese church leaders, including Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, Pope Francis said that he wanted to visit the world’s newest country. South Sudan has been hit by wave after wave of violent conflict after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Yesterday (Thursday), Archbishop Daniel joined his Catholic and Presbyterian counterparts, Archbishop of Juba Paolino Lukudu Loro, and Moderator Peter Gai Lual Marrow at the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis.
Later, speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Paolino said that the delegation had briefed the Pope on the dire situation in the troubles country.
The Christian leaders told Pope Francis about South Sudan’s civil war, the killings, the refugees and the prevailing fear; and they issued a joint invitation for the Pope to visit the country. Archbishop Paolino told Vatican Radio that the Pope replied by saying he was close to them in their sufferings and repeated twice that he wanted to visit South Sudan.
Archbishop Paolino expressed his hope that a Papal visit would help to raise awareness of the critical situation facing the people of South Sudan.
“In the context of the tensions that divide the population to the detriment of coexistence in the country, during the meeting with the Holy Father it was acknowledged that good and fruitful collaboration exists among the Christian Churches, who wish primarily to offer their contribution to promoting the common good, protecting the dignity of the person, protecting the helpless and implementing initiatives for dialogue and reconciliation,” the Vatican press office said in a statement at the end of the meeting.
“In the light of the Year of Mercy in progress in the Catholic Church, it was underlined that the fundamental experience of forgiveness and acceptance of the other is the privileged path to building peace and to human and social development. In this regard, it was confirmed that the various Christian Churches are committed, in a spirit of communion and unity, to service to the population, promoting the spread of a culture of encounter and sharing.
“Finally, all parties reiterated their willingness to journey together and to work with renewed hope and mutual trust, in the conviction that, drawing from the positive values inherent in their respective religious traditions, they may show the way to respond effectively to the deepest aspirations of the population, which keenly thirsts for a secure life and a better future.”