Pope Francis on November 10, 2019, announced that he intends to visit South Sudan in 2020. The news came after the Holy Father prayed the noonday Angelus with the crowds of pilgrims from around the world gather in St. Peter’s Square.
“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.
“The South Sudanese people have suffered too much in the last years and they wait with great hope for a better future, especially the definitive end of the conflicts and lasting peace. Therefore, I exhort the leaders to continue, without tiring, the commitment in favor of inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good of the Nation. Moreover, I express the hope that the international community will not neglect to accompany South Sudan in the path of national reconciliation. I invite you all to pray together for that country, for which I have particular affection.”
Following its independence in 2011, South Sudan erupted into civil war in 2013. President Salva Kiir accused his Vice-President Rieck Machar of orchestrating a coup against him. Up to 400,000 people have been killed and more than 4 million displaced in the conflict, according to Vatican News.
Pope Francis addressed top South Sudanese civil and church authorities on April 11, 2019, at the conclusion of the retreat held at the Vatican. He urged them to overcome what divides them, reminding that peace is possible and expressing his desire to visit the country.
The Pope has on various conditions expressed his desire to visit the civil-war struck nation, along with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who presented the proposal to organize the retreat and has led it.
In the address, the Pope reiterated his hope to visit the country, and at the end of the final prayer, added heartfelt words, begging them to pursue peace, in spite of disagreements that will arise.
He then went to the political leaders of the country and knelt down to kiss the feet of each one.