Pope Francis has made an “urgent appeal” to end the violence in South Sudan in order to ensure humanitarian aid and the promotion of peace.
His message, signed on the Holy Father’s behalf by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was read out on Sunday morning by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The cardinal was presiding at Mass in the Cathedral of Santa Teresa in Juba at the end of five-day visit in the country.
The Pope noted in the message that South Sudan has been ravaged by violence that “has cost the lives of innocent people” and caused divisions, “poverty, hunger, disease, death.”
“Without peace, there can be no development,” the Pope wrote in the message addressed to the Archbishop of Juba, Mons. Paulino Lukudu Loro. “We cannot remain indifferent to this reality”, the Holy Father added, referring in particular to the plight of displaced persons and refugees forced into exile.
The Pope asked the parties involved and the international community to put an end to the violence, ensure “access to humanitarian aid for the needy” and to seek “relentlessly” peaceful solutions in order that the common good prevail over special interests.
He then calls for the need to “promote a culture of encounter” which implies first and foremost the rejection of selfishness and the ability to see another “not an enemy but as a brother to accept and to work with.”
Efforts to create a “constructive” social climate must prevail over the “lust for power”, he said, clearly recognizing that human persons “with their legitimate moral, ethical and social aspirations” always come first.
Lent, he added, is a “privileged moment to embark on a path of purification and conversion of mind and heart.” He also exhorted the people of South Sudan to “conversion of conscience, justice, brotherhood and sharing.”
The message ended with the explicit condemnation of “any act of violence.” The Church, he said, is “working generously in search of a climate of dialogue, reconciliation and peace among all members of society.”
Cardinal Turkson’s visit began March 19 and was linked to a Lenten initiative promoted by the local Church and entitled “Forty days of prayer, fasting and charity for justice, peace and reconciliation.”
Before leaving the country, the cardinal expressed hope that soon the process of nation building will be realized. He urged the South Sudanese to work hard to achieve this goal, despite the conflicts.