‘No More Bloodshed,’ Pope Francis Begs South Sudan’s Leaders
The Pope said, ‘I have come here as a pilgrim, a pilgrim of reconciliation, in the hope of accompanying you on your journey of peace.’ He also condemned violence against women and encouraged their greater inclusion in political positions.
On the first day of his peace pilgrimage, Pope Francis begged the leaders of South Sudan to work together to put an end to bloody conflict and violence in their country.
“In the name of God, of the God to whom we prayed together in Rome, of the God who is gentle and humble in heart, the God in whom so many people of this beloved country believe, now is the time to say, ‘No more of this’; we say no more, without ‘ifs’ or ‘buts,’” the Pope said Feb. 3, addressing South Sudan’s president and vice presidents in the garden of the presidential residence in Juba.
“No more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence and mutual recriminations about who is responsible for it, no more leaving your people a thirst for peace,” he said. “No more destruction: It is time to build! Leave the time of war behind, and let a time of peace dawn!”
Francis addressed South Sudan’s government and members of the diplomatic corps after a 30-minute private meeting with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and a second half-hour private meeting with the three vice presidents.
The trip, a desire of Pope Francis for years, follows a visit of nearly four days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Pope said, “I have come here as a pilgrim, a pilgrim of reconciliation, in the hope of accompanying you on your journey of peace. It is a circuitous journey, yet one that can no longer be postponed.”
He is joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields to visit a country that is 60% Christian.
“We undertook this ecumenical pilgrimage of peace after hearing the plea of an entire people that, with great dignity, weeps for the violence it endures, its persistent lack of security, its poverty and the natural disasters that it has experienced,” Francis said.
“Years of war and conflict seem never to end, and, even recently, there have been bitter clashes,” he noted.
A day before Pope Francis’ arrival, at least 27 farmers and herders were killed in a Feb. 2 attack in South Sudan’s Kajo Keji County, a region approximately 96 miles south of Juba on the border with Uganda.
“At the same time,” the Pope said, “the process of reconciliation seems stagnant and the promise of peace unfulfilled.”
Before Pope Francis’ speech, President Mayardit announced his intention to resume peace negotiations with rebel groups in 2023.
South Sudan’s government had pulled out of the Rome peace talks in November 2022.
“In honor of the Holy Father Pope Francis’ historic visit to our country, and our declaration of 2023 as the year of peace and reconciliation, I am officially announcing the lifting of the suspension of the Rome peace talks with the holdout groups,” he said.
Mayardit also mentioned the September 2022 “Road Map,” a transitional period of 24 months for the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
Pope Francis asked that an “understanding be reached and progress be made in moving forward with the Peace Accord and the Road Map!”
“In a world scarred by divisions and conflict, this country is hosting an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, which is something rare; it represents a change of direction, an opportunity for South Sudan to resume sailing in calm waters, taking up dialogue, without duplicity and opportunism,” he said.
“May it be for everyone an occasion to revive hope,” he added.
Pope Francis also condemned violence against women and encouraged their greater inclusion in political positions.
“Future generations will either venerate your names or cancel their memory, based on what you now do,” he told the country’s leaders. “For just as the Nile leaves its sources to begin its course, so the course of history will leave behind the enemies of peace and bring renown to those who are true peacemakers. Indeed, as Scripture tells us, ‘there is posterity for the man of peace.’”
- south sudan