Pope urges Congo and South Sudan to work for peace and prosperity

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday urged the people and leaders of Congo and South Sudan to “turn a page” and forge new paths of reconciliation, peace and development.

Francis posted a video message the day he planned to begin a week-long pilgrimage to the two African countries. He canceled the planned trip last month due to knee pain that makes walking and standing difficult.

In the message, Francis said he was “very disappointed” that he could not travel and promised to go “as soon as possible”.

He urged the people of both countries not to be robbed of hope despite the violence, political instability, exploitation and poverty which he said have bereaved them for so long.

“You have a great mission, all of you, starting with your political leaders: it is to turn a page to open new paths, new paths of reconciliation and forgiveness, of peaceful coexistence and development”, declared Francois.

He said political leaders owe the pursuit of these goals to young people who dream of peace “and deserve to see those dreams come true.”

“For them, above all, it is necessary to lay down their arms, to overcome all resentments and to write new pages of fraternity,” the pope said.

He was joined to broadcast separate video messages by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Very Reverend Dr. Iain Greenshields, who were believed to have accompanied Francis on the stage. of the trip to South Sudan. In their messages, they expressed disappointment that the visit had to be postponed, but urged South Sudanese to continue working for peace nonetheless.

“Peace requires much more than not being at war. It must be created together, with your fellow leaders and even with your enemies,” Welby said in his post. Greenshields urged South Sudanese to “express the words of Jesus that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God'”.

While Francis was unable to travel, he is due to celebrate a special mass at St. Peter’s on Sunday for the Congolese community in Rome. He sent his number 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to visit the Congo and South Sudan on the days he was supposed to be there.

The Catholic Church has always played a role in the Congo, particularly in the establishment of democracy and the defense of human rights. The church deployed around 40,000 election observers in the 2019 elections that brought Felix Tshisekedi to the presidency. Tshisekedi, an opposition figure, defeated President Joseph Kabila’s chosen candidate in what was Congo’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

There were high hopes for peace and stability once South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. But it slid into ethnic violence in December 2013. A 2018 peace deal that binds President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, into a unity government encourages authorities to hold elections before February 2023.

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Maria D. Ervin