Salvar Kiir hails Museveni, as Pope calls for forgiveness on South Sudan Pilgrimage of Peace

South Sudan President Salvar Kiir has described his Ugandan counterpart President Yoweri Museveni as “an elder brother who has never let him alone.” Museveni, who has been praised globally, as the architect to the Peace in the world’s youngest country, was represented by Vice President, Maj Jessica Alupo in the South Sudan Capital Juba during the visit by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as well as the moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields. Mr Museveni’s role in bringing the warring factions together- in a country that seceded from Sudan in 2011 has been recognised globally as instrumental.

Major Alupo who was in South Sudan for the entire three day official visit by the Pontiff, attended the National Prayers for Peace on February 5 at the John Garang mausoleum, led by Pope Francis, and attended by thousands of faithful worshippers, Government and religious leaders, including President Salva Kiir and the 5 Vice Presidents.

In his sermon, the Pope continued his message of peace, calling out to the people of South Sudan to lay down the weapons of hatred while urging Christians to make a decisive contribution to changing history.

“Let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge, and take up those of prayer and charity,” the Pope preached before winding down what has been called a Pilgrimage of Peace.

“Even if our hearts bleed for the wrongs we have suffered, let us refuse, once and for all, to repay evil with evil,” Francis said. “Let us accept one another and love one another with sincerity and generosity, as God loves us,” Francis called out in his message aimed to revive hopes in the country, which gained independence from the majority Muslim Sudan in 2011 but has been beset by civil war and conflict.

President Salva Kiir, his longtime rival Riek Machar and other opposition groups signed a peace agreement in 2018, but the deal’s provisions, including the formation of a national unified army, remain largely unimplemented and fighting has continued to flare.

“We have suffered a lot,” Natalima Andrea, a 66-year-old mother of seven is quoted as she waited for Francis’ Mass to begin. “We need a permanent peace now and I hope these prayers would yield to lasting peace.”

Upon return to the Vatican, the Pope on Wednesday February 8, addressing crowds in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall dedicated his weekly General Audience to his 40th Apostolic Journey abroad to the African nations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, thanking God for being able to fulfill ‘the dream’ of visiting each.

The Apostolic Journey marked his 40th Apostolic Visit abroad, fifth to Africa, and 59th and 60th countries visited since the start of his pontificate.

Francis expressed gratitude for the long-awaited visit. “I thank God Who allowed me to make this long-desired trip. Two ‘dreams.’”

The Holy Father expressed joy to have visited the Congolese people, who, he said, are “guardians of an immense country.”  “A land rich in resources and bloodied by a war,” he said, “that never ends because there are always those who feed the fire.”

He expressed delight to visit the South Sudanese people. “We went together [with the Archbishop of Canterbury] to witness that it is possible and right to collaborate in diversity, especially if one shares faith in Christ,” he said.

The Pope recalled that South Sudan is a country of about 11 million inhabitants, of whom, because of armed conflicts, two million are internally displaced, and as many, have fled to neighbouring countries.

For this reason, he said, he wished to meet a large group of IDPs, in order to listen to them and make them feel the Church’s closeness.

Women, the force to transform the country

The Churches and Christian-inspired organisations, the Pope went on to say, are on the front line alongside these poor people, who have been living in IDP camps for years. “I addressed women, who are the force that can transform the country; and I encouraged everyone to be seeds of a new South Sudan, without violence, reconciled and pacified.”

Promoting dignity in DR Congo

The Holy Father in his Wednesday address reflected on his days in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, and the messages he made there to protect the precious nation from contention, violence, poverty and exploitation.

“In the face of all this I have said two words: the first is negative: ‘enough!’, stop exploiting Africa! The second is positive: ‘together,’ together with dignity and mutual respect, together in the name of Christ, our hope.”

Pope Francis described Africa as the “region that for years has been torn apart by war between armed groups maneuvered by economic and political interests” and where “people live in fear and insecurity, sacrificed on the altar of illicit deals.”

“With them I said ‘no’ to violence, ‘no’ to resignation, ‘yes’ to reconciliation and hope,” Pope Francis is quoted by the Vatican News on Wednesday.

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