Christians take part in a ceremony at Khartoum Cathedral in 2017
Prelates look to Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury bringing a message of peace and brotherly love
Christians take part in a ceremony at Khartoum Cathedral in 2017 presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The head of the Anglican Communion is due to visit the country with Pope Francis next year. (Photo by Ashraf Shazly/AFP)
Bishops in South Sudan are looking forward to the joint visit of Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury with the hope that it will bring about lasting peace in the country.
"This is a blessing for us," Anglican Archbishop Justin Badi Arama of South Sudan said Nov. 18 in reaction to the announcement of Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the East African country.
"The Holy Father's visit will give a positive impulse," to strengthening peace initiatives in the country, he said.
On Nov. 10, during the Angelus' prayer in Rome, the pope announced his intention to next year visit South Sudan, whose people, he said, "have suffered too much in recent years, and they look forward with great hope to a better future, especially the definitive end to conflicts and a lasting peace."
The country's Anglican archbishop said, however, that the visit was subject to a major condition.
"He announced in Rome that if the government was formed, he would bless the executive and the people of South Sudan," the archbishop recalled.
"Our leaders must do everything possible. If this government is not formed, the pope will not come. He also made it clear that he would not repeat what he had already said."
Lasting peace and a ceasefire between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Rieck Machar have been slow to materialize, despite insistent calls from the international community.
In April, the pope also knelt down to kiss the feet of the two protagonists of the crisis after they went together to Rome for an audience and a spiritual retreat. He begged them to do their utmost to close the long chapter of tensions that had divided the country since its independence in July 2011.
Lack of political will
"Everyone is tired. Our leaders must put the suffering of their people before their interests. The problem is that they do not trust each other, they lack political will," said Archbishop Arama.
"What we need now are frequent visits and meetings and the publication of joint announcements. It will show their willingness to move forward and to trust people."
The first head of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan is looking forward to the much-awaited visit, especially as Pope Francis will make it with the head of the Anglican Communion Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, whom Francis received at the Vatican on Nov. 13.
On Nov. 13, Archbishop Welby confided that after being received by the pope they had discussed their "common passion for peace in South Sudan" and that they had "the intention to visit it together."
"The Episcopal Church of South Sudan appreciates the continued interest and commitment to prayer for South Sudan and its inhabitants of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Justin Welby and Pope Francis," said Archbishop Arama. "We welcome their intention to conduct a joint visit and join them in prayer for lasting peace in the country."
Catholic Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio in the south of the country, said the joint visit would be "a special occasion, as it will bring together all the Christian communities in the country."
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