Pope will not make South Sudan visit this year, spokesman says

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will not visit South
Sudan in October with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury as he had
hoped, the Vatican spokesman said.

Greg Burke, the spokesman, told reporters May 30 the trip
“was not for this year.”

With the civil war worsening and famine spreading, Pope
Francis already in March had expressed doubts about the possibility of making
the trip. In an interview published March 8 with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper,
he said visiting South Sudan would be “important,” but he added,
“I don’t believe that it is possible.”

Still, a small team from the Vatican visited Juba in May to
study the situation and see if it might be possible even to do something only for
a few hours at the Juba airport.

“Vatican security already did their inspection,”
Archbishop Paulino
Lukudu Loro of Juba told the Italian station Radio InBlu. “I’m sorry the
pope cannot come. The country certainly will be disappointed by this

In October, the Catholic archbishop, Episcopal Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak of
South Sudan and Sudan and the Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, moderator of the Presbyterian Church
of South Sudan, came to the Vatican to explain the situation in their country
and to invite the pope.

They suggested the pope and Archbishop Welby could visit
together to bring a message of peace and brotherly love directly to the people
and the squabbling members of the government and political parties.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war.
But, just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into

Visiting an Anglican church in Rome in February, Pope Francis noted
how leaders of the different churches were working together for peace and that
the South Sudan invitation was an ecumenical one.

“We are thinking about whether it can be done, whether
the situation is too difficult down there. But we must do it because they —
the three (bishops) — together want peace and they are working together for
peace,” the pope said.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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