South Sudan’s future ‘cannot lie in refugee camps,’ pope says
~ by Christopher White, Vatican Correspondent
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN: Pope Francis on February 4 urged South Sudan’s diverse Christian community not to be overcome by ethnic or tribal conflicts that have defined the young nation’s early history, but to see their shared faith as a means of building a lasting peace.
“Those who claim to be believers should have nothing more to do with a culture based on the spirit of vengeance, said the pope, encouraging more than 50,000 people gathered in the nation’s capital to commit to “spreading Jesus’s way of non-violence.”
The Gospel, he said, “contradicts every tribal understanding of religion.”
At a joint appearance at the presidential palace on February 3, Francis and the ecumenical leaders who have been intensely involved in holding together the country’s fragile peace agreement issued a stern warning to the country’s political leaders that history would judge them if they fail to work together and bring about peace.
As they gathered here on February 4, Francis offered a similar message to all the country’s Christians, reminding them it was Jesus’ “heartfelt prayer” that all believers may be one.
What Jesus teaches us is clear: we are to love everyone, since everyone is loved as a child of our common Father in heaven,” the pope said. “The love of Christians is not only for those close to us, but for everyone, for in Jesus each person is our neighbor, our brother or sister – even our enemies.”
Some participants walked 93 miles over nine days to be here for the pope’s visit. Others, who live within the capital, spoke of the long hours it took them to reach the event by foot, given the city’s lack of roads and infrastructure. Even so, at the joint prayer service, rosary-clutching men and women were seated alongside Anglicans and other Protestant Christians in joined solidarity representing what Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described as the “fellowship of believers”.