The Chairman of AMECEA, Rt. Rev. Charles Kasonde has said that the Holy Father Pope Francis’ unrelenting focus for the people of South Sudan is a clear testimony of his love and concern for humanity, reported AMECEA Online Newes. Bishop Kasonde who is also the Local Ordinary for the Catholic Diocese of Solwezi, Zambia expressed delight at the news of a probable second visit of the Pontiff to AMECEA Region. Pope Francis in his maiden visit to Africa came to Kenya and Uganda in November 2015 before proceeding to Central Africa Republic (CAR).
“This is great news for AMECEA Region. A probable Papal visit to South Sudan next year 2020 is a timely news of great hope. We are grateful to God to have the Vicar of Christ who accompanies his flock until taken to the higher ground for safety,” Bishop Kasonde said.
South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011. Unfortunately, in December 2013, following a political struggle between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, violence erupted which has since crippled the country. It is estimated that over 50,000 people have been killed and nearly four million people have been displaced either internally or fled to neighboring countries.
Salva Kiir and Riek Machar in September 2018, signed a peace agreement in Ethiopia, and they are now attempting to form a stable government together. Unfortunately, the situation is still unpredictable and fragile.
In April 2019, during a special retreat at the Vatican, the Holy Father Pope Francis appealed for peace after kissing the rival leaders’ feet and urged them not to return to civil war. He encouraged them in the mood of prayer and serenity to overcome their divisions and let peace reign in South Sudan for the good of the country and the continent as a whole.
On Thursday, November 7, the two rival South Sudanese leaders agreed to postpone the formation of a coalition government for another 100 days. The leaders were to form the Government of National Unity (GNU) by November 12 but after meeting in Uganda which was mediated by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, they said that security and governance issues needed to be resolved before they could form the GNU.
On Sunday, November 10 during the prayers of the Angelus with a group of pilgrims at the Vatican, Pope Francis was quoted to have said, “A special thought goes to the dear people of South Sudan, which I must visit this [next] year,” Pope Francis said. “With the still vivid memory of the spiritual retreat for the authorities of the country, held in the Vatican last April, I wish to renew my invitation to all the actors in the national political process, to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a true spirit of brotherhood.”
“As AMECEA Region we feel blessed and privileged by the Holy Father’s disclosure of his wish as it brings great hope to all of us,” Bishop Kasonde said adding that he is like Abraham our father in faith who interceded for his people (Genesis 18:6-33)
“My humble request to His Holiness Pope Francis, if it is fitting for me as Chairman of AMECEA, is that he extends his visit and step his feet on the soil of Eritrea as well, to pray with our brothers and sisters there who are also undergoing difficult times,” Bishop Kasonde implored.
Eritrea is another member of AMECEA countries where citizens have seen lots of problems. Many young Eritreans have fled the country to Europe via dangerous routes just to escape the harsh condition at home. Many of them have even perished on the sea as they flee.
The Catholic Church in Eritrea has also not been spared from the suffering going by the recent happenings where the government took over church institutions including health care facilities as well as schools run by the Church. The visit of the Holy Father would, therefore, mean a lot to the Catholic Church which is a minority in Eritrea.
“We continue praying for the realization of this important visit on our soil by our Shepherd,” Bishop Kasonde remarked.