At the end of the spiritual retreat, that brought the two political adversaries from Southern Sudan together at the Santa Marta house, Pope Francis made an unexpected gesture.
He knelt down to kiss the feet of the two leaders who led the country into civil war. Pope Francis asked them “from the heart and with their deepest feelings” to keep the peace.
Recently an armistice has been signed and from the month of May a transitional government will be created in which both leaders will participate.
Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, and his opponent, Riek Machar spent two days together in the Vatican to pray for peace.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Pope Francis and John Chalmers, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland will also sign Bibles that will be given to each of the participants present. Inside they will write, “Seek that which unites. Overcome that which divides.”
The gaze of the people
Pope Francis spoke of “another gaze”: that of the people, a gaze that “expresses their ardent desire for justice, reconciliation and peace”. The Pope expressed his “spiritual closeness” to refugees and the sick.
Pope Francis, “and I pray that the fires of war will finally die down, so that they can return to their homes and live in serenity”.
Peace is possible
“I shall never tire of repeating”, said the Pope, that “peace is possible!” Peace, he said, is a “great gift of God”, but it is also “a supreme duty on the part of those with responsibility for the people”. All of us are called to be peacemakers, he said, to “build peace through dialogue, negotiation and forgiveness”. People are exhausted by conflicts, said Pope Francis. “Remember that with war, all is lost!”
The Pope then referred to the peace agreement signed by the highest political representatives of South Sudan last September.
He congratulated the signatories of that document for having “chosen the path of dialogue”, for their “readiness to compromise”, and for their “determination to achieve peace”.
A final prayer
Pope Francis confirmed his hope and desire “that soon, by God’s grace”, he would be able to visit South Sudan, together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The Pope then concluded his meditation with a prayer, in which he asks God the Father: “to touch with the power of the Spirit the depths of every human heart, so that enemies will be open to dialogue, adversaries will join hands and peoples will meet in harmony… May the whole-hearted search for peace resolve disputes”, prayed the Pope, “may love conquer hatred and may revenge be disarmed by forgiveness”.
Pope Francis gets down on his knees to kiss the feet of Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of South Sudan, and other opposition leaders who have just completed a spiritual retreat at the Vatican looking for peace in the country pic.twitter.com/u9yWyeOqh4
— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) April 11, 2019