VATICAN CITY MAY 30, 2017 (CISA) – Pope Francis’ desired trip to South Sudan for an ecumenical visit alongside Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, won’t be happening this year, Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke has confirmed.
The trip is still being considered, just, “Not this year,” Burke told journalists today. He did not elaborate on when the visit, which had been tentatively planned for October, might take place.
Pope Francis had hoped to travel to South Sudan to promote peace, after making a similar effort during his 2015 visit to the Central African Republic.
The Pope previously voiced his intention to visit South Sudan alongside Anglican Primate and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
The trip would have marked the first time Catholic and Anglican leaders made such a trip together.
According to the Catholic Register, the idea was likely the fruit of a meeting the Pope had with ecumenical leaders from South Sudan last fall, when Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of Juba traveled to Rome together with Rev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan.
The three of them met with Pope Francis October 27, 2016, to discuss the situation of the country with Pope Francis.
During the visit, they not only highlighted their joint collaboration in seeking to alleviate the effects of the crisis, but they also invited the Pope for a formal visit.
Arranged by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Vatican’s dicastery for Integral Human Development, the meeting focused largely on current tensions dividing Sudanese people, and the collaboration of different Christian denominations in promoting reconciliation and the common good.
South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, but has been torn by a civil war since December 2013, between the state forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – and opposition forces, as well as sectarian conflict.
A peace agreement was eventually signed, but was broken by violence in the summer of 2016, prompting the South Sudan Council of Churches to publicly condemn the violence and pray for peace.
A ceasefire was then ordered by President Kiir and then-Vice President Machar in July.