A rare joint letter from the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd Colin Sinclair, has urged the leaders of South Sudan to continue to seek peace, Church Times reports.
Sent before a long-planned joint visit by Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby to the new nation, the letter welcomed the “small progress” made towards peace, but said that more needed to be done.
The letter reads: “When we visit, we long to bear witness to a changed nation, governed by leaders who, in the words of the Holy Father last year, ‘hold hands, united . . . as simple citizens’ to ‘become Fathers (and Mothers) of the Nation’.
“We pray, this Christmas, that you will know greater trust among yourselves and a greater generosity of service to your people.”
It had originally been hoped that the visit could take place in 2020. Archbishop Welby led a spiritual retreat for South Sudan’s most senior political and church leaders at the Vatican in April 2019 (News, 12 April 2019). At the end, Pope Francis knelt before the leaders of South Sudan’s government and opposition, kissing their shoes and urging them to pursue peace.
In February, South Sudan’s government and opposition parties announced a transitional government after years of fighting, but outbreaks of fighting have continued in some areas, and humanitarian assistance is unable to get through (News, 29 May).
South Sudan descended into civil war within two years of the new nation being formed in 2011. Parts of the country are now on the brink of a catastrophic famine, humanitarian organisations have warned, owing to the impact of the conflict, Covid-19, and recent floods.