The situation in South Sudan remains a priority for the diplomacy of the Holy See: it is recalled that in April 2019, at the initiative of the Secretariat of State, the two political leaders of the country – Rieck Machar and Salva Kiir – met at the Vatican for a spiritual retreat to put an end to the civil war that has been ruining the country since 2013.
“The people of South Sudan have suffered too much in recent years and look forward to a better future, especially the end of conflict and lasting peace,” said Pope Francis from the window of the Pontifical Apartment on November 10, 2019 during the Angelus prayer.
380,000 people have been killed and more than 4 million have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict that erupted two years after the proclamation of South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
The Holy Father also announced that he “must” go to the country in person next year, in order to show his closeness to the population and thereby encourage the peace process.
While the ceasefire in September 2018 has been generally respected, Salva Kiir and his rival Rien Machar have not yet managed to form a unified government, as the Addis Ababa peace agreement required. While November 12th was supposed to be a deadline, a new deadline of one hundred days was granted to the two enemy brothers, during a meeting organized in Uganda on November 7th.
At the end of the Angelus, the Argentine pope addressed the international community, so that it does not “neglect to accompany South Sudan on the path of national reconciliation.”
The situation in South Sudan is all the more painful and lamentable, as this country gained its independence to escape the Muslim domination that terrorized and enslaved the Christian inhabitants in the south of the country. Unfortunately, the attractiveness of power dislocated the union that had presided over decades of struggle for independence.
In South Sudan, the Catholic Church is the majority religion: it brings together 3 million faithful or nearly 40% of the population. The Catholic presence is mainly the result of the apostolate of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, an Italian religious institute founded by Bishop Daniel Comboni in the nineteenth century, dedicated to the evangelization of the peoples of Central Africa.