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The Pope kisses the feet of the leaders of South Sudan and urges them to maintain peace

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis made a gesture of consolation, kneeling before two previously opposed leaders in southern Sudan, and kissed last Thursday, urging them not to return to civil war.

He made a sincere request to President Salva Kiir, Riek Machar (former vice president and rebel leader) and three other vice presidents to respect and participate in an armistice signed by the parties to create a new government. next month

Pope Francis said: “As a brother, I ask you to stay in peace, I ask you with my heart, let’s move on, there will be many problems but they will not overcome us.” Solve your problems.

The leaders seem amazed by the Pope’s gesture when this 82-year-old man, who suffers from chronic leg pain, kneels very hard to kiss the shoes of the two leaders and several other people in the room.

Its appeal was even more important as tension increased in southern Sudan on the same day as a result of a coup in neighboring Sudan. The fragile peace agreement that ended the brutal five-year civil war in South Sudan was threatened.

The Vatican urged South Sudanese leaders to pray for 24 hours inside the Pope’s residence in an attempt to dispel the bitter divisions before the country heads toward a unity government.

The Pope also emphasizes that “there will be problems, disagreements among you, but it will keep them in you, in the office, so to speak,” Francis said in Italian as an aid translated into English. “But before the people, put your hands together, then, as ordinary citizens, you will become the parents of the nation.”

South Sudan is a predominantly Christian country, separated from the Muslim majority of Sudan in 2011. Two years after independence, South Sudan is mired in a civil war after President Kiir, a Dinka, fired the country. Vice President Machar, originally from the Nuer ethnic group.

Almost 400,000 people lost their lives and more than a third of the 12 million people in South Sudan were uprooted as a result of the conflict.

The two sides signed an agreement to share power in September and called on the main rival factions to meet, select and train their own forces to create a national army before forming a unity government the following month.

On Thursday, before addressing visitors, the Pope stressed that the war has exhausted the people of South Sudan and that leaders have a duty to build a young and unjustified nation. He also expressed the desire to visit the country with other religious leaders to consolidate peace.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is a spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican community, members of the Council of Churches of South Sudan and other Catholic and Presbyterian leaders in Africa, also attended the retreat.


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