Vatican Delegation to Bring Its Blessing to Newest Nation

Many Citizens of South Sudan Are Catholic

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ROME, JULY 8, 2011 ( As the hours count down for the independence of South Sudan, the Vatican spokesman announced today that Benedict XVI has sent an official delegation to Juba to bring “best wishes for peace and prosperity.”

<p>South Sudan is set for official independence at midnight tonight.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, noted that many of the citizens of the new state are Catholic.

The Pope’s delegation will be headed by Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi and president of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, and include Archbishop Leo Boccardi, apostolic nuncio to Sudan, and Monsignor Javier Herrera Corona, secretary of the apostolic nunciature to Kenya.

The Vatican spokesman reiterated a statement from Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, when Thursday he received a Sudanese parliamentary delegation led by Ahmed Ibrahim Elthair, president of the Sudanese National Assembly. “Peace, reconciliation and respect for universal rights — especially religious liberty — are the fundamental pillars upon which to construct the new socio-political circumstances of the region, and vital conditions in order to be able to look to a future of hope,” Father Lombardi said.

He noted the Holy See’s “stable diplomatic relations” with Sudan since 1972, and assured that “due consideration to any request from the government of Southern Sudan” will be given.

The Jesuit also invited the international community to support both Sudan and South Sudan, “so that, through frank, peaceful and constructive dialogue, they may find just and equitable solutions to outstanding questions.”

“At the same time,” he said, “[the Holy See] expresses the hope that those peoples will enjoy a journey of peace, freedom and development.”

Sudan became the first state to recognize South Sudan today. But there are still weighty unresolved issues for the neighbors to work out, particularly the problem of oil, which is mostly in the south, but exported through the north; and the issue of southerns who live in the north, and vice versa; as well as two regions along the new border.

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