Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Pope Francis kisses shoes of Sudanese leaders in plea for peace

Pope Francis kisses shoes of Sudanese leaders in plea for peace

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal past year that calls on them to form a unity government on May 12.

He said: "I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace".

The respected cleric appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents, to respect a peace agreement they had signed and commit to forming a harmonious government come May 2019.

South Sudan has been at conflict nearly since splitting from Sudan which ended Africa's longest running civil war. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us.

Closing his prepared remarks with a prayer, he asked God "to touch with the power of the Spirit the depths of every human heart, so that enemies will be open to dialogue, adversaries will join hands and peoples will meet in harmony".

In his pre-prepared address earlier on Thursday, Francis said South Sudan's people were exhausted by war and the leaders had a duty to build their young nation in justice. A peace deal last August has reduced but not stopped the fighting.

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"We Christians believe and know that peace is possible, for Christ is risen".

Several ceasefire agreements and peace pacts have failed to end the fighting, which has led to the death of an estimated 380,000 people, uprooted a third of the population, forced almost two-and-a-half million into exile and triggered bouts of deadly starvation.

South Sudan's conflict began 2 years after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

Pope Francis confirmed his "desire and hope" to visit South Sudan soon, adding that this future visit would be together with Welby and and the former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. "So, as simple citizens, you will become fathers of the nation." . Too many of them have died or been forced from their homes or face starvation because of five years of civil war.

"Peace is the first gift that the Lord brought us, and the first commitment that leaders of nations must pursue".

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