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Pope Francis to visit South Sudan in July

Pope Francis

By Simon Deng and Tapeng Michael Ohure

The head on the catholic church, Pope Francis will visit South Sudan in July this year, the government and the church in Juba announced.

The visit is set for July 5 to 7, after a similar visit to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Monsignor Ionut Paul, the Acting Apostolic Nuncio who is also the Charge de Affairs at the Vatican Embassy in South Sudan told reporters in the capital Juba on Thursday.

“At the invitation of their respective heads of state and bishops, his holiness Pope Francis will make an apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo from July 2-5 2022, visiting the cities of Kinshasa and Goma and to South Sudan from July 5-7, 2022, visiting Juba,” Monsignor Paul said.

Pope Francis has wanted to visit South Sudan for years, but security concerns prevented him from going there, including for a joint visit with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 2019, the pope invited South Sudan’s rival leaders to the Vatican for an Easter summit, stunning onlookers when he knelt down and kissed their feet in a humble plea for peace.

 The trip would be one of Francis’ longest in years and his third to sub-Saharan Africa. He visited Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic in 2015 and Mozambique, Mauritius and Madagascar in 2019. Francis also visited Egypt in 2017.

South Sudan is “ready and willing” to receive the Pope, the Minister in the Office of the President, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told reporters.

“The government is extremely happy to hear that our grace and his holiness Pope Francis will be visiting the Republic of South Sudan in the city of Juba as announced by the Catholic Church,” Benjamin said.

“The government and its leadership are prepared and willing to give a warm and great welcome that the people of South Sudan have been waiting for for many years,” he said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, will accompany the Pope on the visit, he said.

The Pope’s visit is a show of solidarity with the people of South Sudan who have been suffering immensely in war, Stephen Ameyu Martin Mullah, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Juba told reporters.

“The Holy Father would like to come and visit South Sudan on a religious perspective but the Holy Father also has other concerns,” Mullah said.

“He is concerned about the life of people in general, he is concern about politics in South Sudan and so he has come in solidarity with South Sudanese.”

Justin Badi Arama, the Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan said its time for South Sudanese to shun war and seek reconciliation.

“The challenge now is to us, Christians of South Sudan and all our politicians and our government is that we should join hands and prepare to receive the Holy Father in our country. It was their wish that they come when we are fully reconciled,” Arama said.

“We encourage all Christians that we should now prepare by avoiding the continued intercommunal violence and our politicians please reconcile so that the Holy Father comes and bless us as people who already embrace peace,” he said.

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