Juba, 16 March 2019: South Sudan embattling leader Salva Kiir on Saturday arrives in the Vatican to meet Catholic Church leader, Pope Francis, during the three days visit to the Vatican, Mr. Kiir is expected to brief Pope Francis about progress made about the Revitalized Peace agreement by his government. Mr. Kiir is also expected to give an invitation to Pope Francis to visit war-torn South Sudan in the nearest future.
A relation between Kiir and Roman Catholic church in South Sudan is not that cordial as Catholic bishops in their three days meeting in Juba in February concluded that the current peace agreement needs to be reopened and revisited for more inclusiveness. The Catholic bishops also decried about the recent surge of fighting in River state, calling for the government to stop the war.
On Saturday, March 16, 2019, Pope Francis received in audience His Excellency Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan. The President subsequently met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.
According to the communique published by the Vatican Press Office, the cordial discussions highlighted the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Republic of South Sudan, as well as the contribution of the Catholic Church in the educational and health field, and in the process of reconciliation and reconstruction of the Nation.
Other issues touched on included questions concerning the implementation of an agreement recently reached by various political elements, with a view to the definitive resolution of the conflict, the return of refugees and displaced persons, and the integral development of the country.
In this context, Pope Francis expressed the wish that conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan might be met, as a sign of closeness to the people and encouragement to the peace process.
It is not the first time the Pope has said he wants to visit the Republic of South Sudan. In 2017, he hoped to make an ecumenical visit to the country along with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Webley. The trip had to be called off because of security reasons.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011, becoming the world’s newest country, but has faced a series of challenges since then, including an ongoing civil war between government and opposition forces.