… Accepts to tour South Sudan

Pope Francis wants to visit South Sudan, the world’s newest country.
The Pope yesterday accepted an invitation to visit the troubled nation, which gained independence from the north in 2011, at an audience in Rome with church leaders. He will need to be formally invited by the government of South Sudan before he can travel there.
Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba, Episcopal Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev Peter Gai Lual Marrow, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan were in Rome to share with the Pope some of the traumas being suffered in South Sudan,
Vatican Radio reported that the Pope told the church leaders: “Look, I am with you, I suffer and I live with you. I want to visit southern Sudan. I want to visit South Sudan.”
Marrow said: “He accepted the invitation and said that in principle he really wants to come.”
South Sudan, where most of the population is Christian or animist, is caught in violent conflict between those that support the present and former president. Peace agreements reached last year failed in July, plunging South Sudan into more violence. Amnesty has described the “deliberate killings of civilians, rapes of women and girls, and looting.”
Archbishop Loro said after the meeting that he told Pope Francis some of what is going on.
“There is war, there are killings, there’s death, there are refugees, there are people in the camps in the country. There is just disgust about the situation. People feel that although there is a government, it is as if the president is absent.
“We told all this to the Holy Father and we do our best, as a Church, to help in this situation. And we – of course – we asked the Holy Father to come to visit us.”
The Catholic church in Sudan asked in January for the Pope to visit. Now all the church leaders have invited him on an ecumenical basis.
During the meeting, the Pope noted the “good and fruitful collaboration” between churches in South Sudan who are working to create reconciliation opportunities. The population “yearns urgently to a secure life and a better future,” he was told.
Earlier this year, the Vatican warned of a crackdown on South Sudan media to stop citizens going on talk shows and radio phone-ins to describe what is going on.

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