Pope urges South Sudan church leaders to challenge injustice

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Pope Francis has been trying to console the long-suffering people of South Sudan as he opened his first full day in the country.

Meeting with bishops, priests and deacons at St Theresa’s Cathedral in Juba, he asked people to challenge injustice amid an ethnic conflict that has led to years of fighting.

He appealed to his brothers and sisters in the church to cultivate the skills to step in on behalf of people, and raise their voices against injustice and prevarication.

“It is precisely this art of stepping into the middle of our brothers and sisters that the church’s pastors need to cultivate; the ability to step into the middle of their sufferings and tears, into the middle of their hunger for God and their thirst for love,” he said.

He added that deceit and injustice crushes people and condemned what he called “the use of violence to conduct business in the shadow of conflict.”

Francis also highlighted the plight of South Sudanese women, half of whom are married before age 18, are subject to sexual violence and face the world’s highest maternal mortality rate.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in a report last year women and girls in South Sudan live a “hellish existence.” 

Pope Francis was welcomed by Christians in Juba, local resident Mary Amos, said:  “We are very happy to see the Pope here to visit us, we are proud.”

Another local resident, Joyce Severino Wani, added: “I feel very happy, of course, the coming of our Pope in South Sudan wanting peace, we are very happy, the family of South Sudan are very happy.”

Pope Francis, who is travelling with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Presbyterian head of the Church of Scotland, is spending three days in the country.

They hope to draw global attention to the country’s plight.

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