Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury to visit South Sudan together

Thursday November 14 2019

Pope Francis embraces Anglican Archbishop

Pope Francis embraces Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Communion, during a meeting Nov. 13, 2019, in the pope’s Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. PHOTO \ VATICAN MEDIA  

By AFP

Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will travel to South Sudan if the country's warring sides form a unity government as planned by February, the Vatican said Wednesday.

The announcement came as Welby held "friendly discussions" with the pontiff that touched on "the condition of Christians in the world", the Holy See said in a statement.

It emphasised "certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan."

The two prelates said they would visit South Sudan together "if the political situation (leads to) a transitional national unity government in the next 100 days".

Francis hosted a two-day Vatican retreat in April aimed at shoring up the fragile peace in South Sudan.

He created a sensation afterward in an event in which he kissed the South Sudanese leaders' feet, saying: "Your people are awaiting your return to your country, the reconciliation of all its members, and a new era of peace and prosperity for all."

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Under a 2015 a peace deal, rebel chief Riek Machar returned as vice president in 2016, but the accord collapsed within months, with fierce battles in the capital. The fresh conflict engulfed even more of the country.

Before South Sudan became independent, it was the southern part of the country of Sudan, which was the scene of two civil wars pitting mainly Christian and animist insurgents in the south against Khartoum's Muslim Arab-dominated government. Millions died in the conflicts.

Last week South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Machar were granted an extension of 100 days to form a power-sharing government, in the latest modification to a truce they signed in September 2018.

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