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Pope to Give Concluding Address at South Sudan Spiritual Retreat in Vatican

Alessandro Gisotti Issues Statement on April 10-11 Encounter in the Vatican With the African Country’s Civil and Church Leadership

Pope Francis will address top South Sudanese civil and church authorities in the Vatican.

Alessandro Gisotti, Director of the Holy See Press Office, stated this in a statement he issued today, April 9, about the spiritual retreat in the Vatican, April 10-11, in which the highest civil and ecclesiastical authorities of South Sudan will participate. The Pontiff, he said, will give a closing address on Thursday afternoon.

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 this retreat.

“This event, both ecumenical and diplomatic at the same time, was organized by mutual agreement between the Secretariat of State and the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the goal of offering on the part of the Church a propitious occasion for reflection and prayer,” the statement said, adding it is intended to be “an occasion for encounter and reconciliation, in a spirit of respect and trust, to those who in this moment have the mission and the responsibility to work for a future of peace and prosperity for the South Sudanese people.”

Cardinal Parolin had told to ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent that they have “cautious optimism” for a papal visit to South Sudan, a trip that was unable to come to fruition in the past, as hoped, due to not having the necessary security conditions.

Here is the Director’s statement:

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The Holy Father, Pope Francis, approved the proposal presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby, to organize a spiritual retreat to take place in the Vatican, within the Domus Sanctae Marthae, from the 10-11 of this month of April, in which the highest civil and ecclesiastical authorities of South Sudan will participate.

Representing the civil authorities in the event, are the members of the Presidency of the Republic of South Sudan, who, under the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, will assume positions of great national responsibility this coming 12 May: Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic, as well as four of the five designated Vice Presidents: Mr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon, Mr. James Wani Igga, Mr. Taban Deng Gai and Ms. Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior. Representing the ecclesiastical authorities of the country, eight members of the South Sudan Council of Church will take part in the retreat. His Excellency, Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu (Uganda), and the Reverend Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, S.J., President of the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, will provide the preaching during the retreat.

This event, both ecumenical and diplomatic at the same time, was organized by mutual agreement between the Secretariat of State and the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the goal of offering on the part of the Church a propitious occasion for reflection and prayer, as well as an occasion for encounter and reconciliation, in a spirit of respect and trust, to those who in this moment have the mission and the responsibility to work for a future of peace and prosperity for the South Sudanese people.

The conclusion of the retreat will take place on the afternoon of Thursday, the 11th, when, at 5:00pm, the Holy Father will pronounce His discourse. Following that, those participating in the retreat will be given a Bible, signed by His Holiness Pope Francis, by His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and by the Reverend John Chalmers, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with the message “Seek that which unites. Overcome that which divides”. At the end, the leaders of South Sudan, who will take up the common task for peace, will receive the blessing.

[Original text: Italian – working translation]

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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