“Let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge (…) let us overcome the antipathies and aversions that, over time, have become chronic and threaten to oppose tribes and ethnic groups,” Pope Francis told some 70,000 faithful this Sunday during an open-air mass in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, which marks the end of his visit to this African country torn by violence and misery.
Throughout his 48-hour visit, the pope made repeated calls for peace in the country with a Christian majority and 12 million inhabitants, which between 2013 and 2018 was engulfed by a civil war between supporters of the two rival leaders. , Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, which left 380,000 dead and millions internally displaced.
Before the mass, Francis greeted and blessed the crowd during a ride in his popemobile, to the rhythm of shouts of joy and tambourines.
As they passed, the crowd chanted “Welcome to South Sudan!”, waving flags of the world’s youngest state and the Vatican.
Following an ecumenical prayer on Saturday night, many worshipers spent the night at the John Garang mausoleum, named after the historic leader of the southern rebellion, who died in a mysterious 2005 helicopter crash and advocate of a united federal Sudan. , secular and democratic.
Others roamed the city’s dusty roads all night, dressed in traditional clothing. Some wore a cross around their necks or a photo of the pope.
“I have suffered in my life. That’s why I’m here, for the pope to bless me and my family,” said Josephine James, 32.
The pontiff will leave Juba for Rome at around 11:30 a.m. (09:30 GMT) and will give his traditional press conference on the plane, together with the heads of the churches of England and Scotland, representatives of the other two Christian denominations of South Sudan with those who made the visit.
On Saturday, Francis called for a “dignified life” for internally displaced people in this landlocked East African country, which in December had some 2.2 million internally displaced persons, according to the UN.
As soon as he arrived, the pope called on the political class to give “a new impetus” to peace and condemned corruption.
The UN and the international community accuse the South Sudanese leadership of fueling violence, stifling political freedoms and embezzling public funds.
The personal armies of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar are also accused of war crimes.
Despite the peace agreement signed in 2018 in the country that gained independence from Sudan in 2011, violence continues.
On Thursday, the eve of the pope’s arrival, at least 21 people died in a cattle raid in the south.
In 2019, Francis received the two enemies at the Vatican and knelt to kiss their feet, begging them to make peace, a gesture that was followed by no concrete progress.
Before Juba, Francis paid a four-day visit to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he condemned the “heinous cruelties” of armed groups.
This visit is the 40th visit by the Argentine pope abroad since his election in 2013, and the third to sub-Saharan Africa. (YO)
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