Pope Francis has today Saturday met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, discussing the implementation of the peace agreement signed late last year and general development of the war-torn country.
According to the communique published by the Vatican Press Office, the cordial deliberations 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.”
Kiir and dissident Vice President Riek Machar agreed to lay down weapons and start a new chapter of peace and reconciliation to return stability to South Sudan.
September’s UN-backed South Sudan peace agreement is holding and has led to positive change, but tens of thousands of civilians in the war-weary nation are still reliant of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and time is running out.
The Pope needed assurance from Kiir that the country was on a steady path to peace and prosperity.
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.
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.
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 Welby.
The trip had to be called off because of security reasons.
The Pope in 2015 met with Kiir in Uganda, during which they held talks for about 15 minutes.
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.