Pope Francis to Visit South Sudan in 2020

Pope Francis has recently announced that he intends to visit South Sudan in 2020 with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

“A special thought goes to the dear people of South Sudan, which I must visit next year,” Pope Francis said. “With the still vivid memory of the spiritual retreat for the authorities of the country, held in the Vatican last April, I wish to renew my invitation to all the actors in the national political process, to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a true spirit of brotherhood”.

He continues: “The South Sudanese people have suffered too much in the last years and they wait with great hope for a better future, especially the definitive end of the conflicts and lasting peace. Therefore, I exhort the leaders to continue, without tiring, the commitment in favour of inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good of the Nation. Moreover, I express the hope that the international community will not neglect to accompany South Sudan in the path of national reconciliation. I invite you all to pray together for that country, for which I have particular affection.”

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011. Unfortunately, in December 2013, following a political struggle between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, violence erupted which has since crippled the country. It is estimated that over 50,000 people have been killed and nearly four million people have been displaced either internally or fled to neighbouring countries.

In September 2018 Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, signed a peace agreement in Ethiopia, and to form a stable government together.

On Thursday November 7, the two rival South Sudanese leaders agreed to postpone the formation of a coalition government for another 100 days. The leaders were to form Government of National Unity (GNU) by November 12 but after meeting in Uganda which was mediated by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, they said that security and governance issues needed to be resolved before they could form the GNU.

On 13 November 2019, Pope Francis received in audience His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. During the friendly discussions, the condition of Christians in the world was mentioned, as well as certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan.

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that if the political situation in the Country permits the creation of a transitional government of national unity in the coming 100 days, according to the timing set by the recent agreement signed in Entebbe, in Uganda, it is their intention to visit South Sudan together.