Pope Francis postpones visit to South Sudan

VATICAN CITY MAY 30, 2017 (CISA) – Pope Francis’ desired trip to South Sudan for an ecumenical visit alongside Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, won’t be happening this year, Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke has confirmed. The trip is still being considered, just, “Not this year,” Burke told journalists today. He did not elaborate on when the visit, which had been tentatively planned for October, might take place. Pope Francis had hoped to travel to South Sudan to promote peace, after making a similar effort during his 2015 visit to the Central African Republic. The Pope previously voiced his intention to visit South Sudan alongside Anglican Primate and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The trip would have marked the first time Catholic and Anglican leaders made such a trip together. According to the Catholic Register, the idea was likely the fruit of a meeting the Pope had with ecumenical leaders from South Sudan last fall, when Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of Juba traveled to Rome together with Rev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. The three of them met with Pope Francis October 27, 2016, to discuss the situation of the country with Pope Francis. During the visit, they not only highlighted their joint collaboration in seeking to alleviate the effects of the crisis, but they also invited the Pope for a formal visit. Arranged by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Vatican’s dicastery for Integral Human Development, the meeting focused largely on current tensions dividing Sudanese people, and the collaboration of different Christian denominations in promoting reconciliation and the common good. South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, but has been torn by a civil war since December 2013, between the state forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – and opposition forces, as well as sectarian conflict. A peace agreement was eventually signed, but was broken by violence in the summer of 2016, prompting the South Sudan Council of Churches to publicly condemn the violence and pray for peace. A ceasefire was then ordered by President Kiir and then-Vice President Machar in July.

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And on Earth Peace

No matter where one is in the Christian parts of the world, Christmas is a special time for families to get together, a time to set aside any disagreements and to celebrate the sharing of life together. I have often reflected on the story of Christmas eve at Ypres in Belgium in 1914. German troops on one side, and British soldiers entrenched on the other, began singing Silent Night in their own languages. Eventually, soldiers emerged from their trenches and met in "no man's land", setting up a Christmas tree and exchanging gifts such as cigars, jam and whisky. No shots were fired. This was a moment of Christmas peace when the human spirit rose above the conflict that engulfed them.

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Appeal to Non-violence

"Our assembly, people of God from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania included lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, priests, and bishops. Many of us live in communities experiencing violence and oppression. All of us are practitioners of justice and peace. We are grateful for the message to our conference from Pope Francis: “your thoughts on revitalizing the tools of non-violence, and of active nonviolence in particular, will be a needed and positive contribution”.

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Pope Francis Floats Possibility of Visit to South Sudan

The head of Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has expressed interested to visit the war-torn South Sudan to meet its leaders during the upcoming transitional period, a bishop who met the Pope has said. Roko Taban Musa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Malakal, told local radio station in Juba that Pope Francis informed the bishops from Sudan and South Sudan during their recent meeting in Rome, that the Holy Father wanted to meet President Salva Kiir and first vice president designate, Riek Machar. “The Pope is updated about the situation both in Sudan and South Sudan. He knows what is happening,” Musa told Eye Radio in an interview on Monday evening. “He told us (the bishops) that he wanted to visit South Sudan clearly but he did not give us the time. He told us he is trying to work out the possibility of meeting [President] Salva Kiir once again and Dr. Riek Machar,” Musa added. Pope Francis met President Kiir for 15 minutes last year in Kampala, Uganda. The brief encounter was arranged by the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, a regional ally who sent his forces to fight Machar’s opposition for two years. South Sudan has a substantial number of Roman Catholic followers. President Kiir too is a Catholic. Musa, who met Pope Francis with other bishops from Sudan and South Sudan, said the Vatican will announce the date of Pope’s visit, which he said is significant. “As a man of supreme moral authority in the world, the Pope will be able to play a great role in bringing together, not only in bringing together the two men, but making the two men work together for peace, for prosperity and for freedom in this country,” he said. Although the date for the visit has not been fixed, issues such as security in the capital will be put into consideration.

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