Pope Francis resumes plans for South Sudan trip

Sun 17 Mar 2019

By Eno Adeogun

The Pope has reactivated his plans for a trip to South Sudan.

Pope Francis was forced to cancel the visit in 2017 because of the civil war in the world’s youngest country.

The pontiff met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who is also Catholic, on Saturday at the Vatican.

During the meeting, Pope Francis “expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan,” a statement revealed.

It added that the Pope wanted to make the trip as “a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process”.

The African nation, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when Mr Kiir sacked his then-deputy Riek Machar and accused him of plotting a coup.

The personal rivalry sparked fighting between forces loyal to the president and rebels allied with Machar.

It also deepened division between two of South Sudan’s largest ethnic groups – Mr Kiir’s dominant Dinka and Mr Machar’s Nuer people.

Mr Kiir and Mr Riek Machar – who is a Presbyterian, signed a peace deal in September, pledging to create a united national army before May.

More than half of the population of South Sudan is Christian, while Sudan is predominantly Muslim.