Pope at Ecumenical Prayer in South Sudan: Those who unleash war betray God

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In Juba’s John Garang Mausoleum, concluding his second day in South Sudan, Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered for an ecumenical prayer. He noted that from the South Sudanese land, “wracked by violence”, “many prayers have now been raised to heaven”.

Pope Francis asked all those present to reflect on three verbs: 

To pray

The first, is to pray. Pope Francis noted that prayer gives us the strength to go forward, to overcome our fears, to glimpse, even in the darkness, the salvation that God is even now preparing.  He added that “prayer brings down God’s salvation upon the people”, and that the prayer of intercession is the type of prayer that we, as shepherds of God’s holy people, are especially called to practise. 

The Holy Father urged all those present to support each other in this effort.

“In the diversity of our confessions, let us feel united among ourselves, as one family, responsible to pray for everyone.”

To work

Speaking of the verb “work”, Pope Francis noted that the peace of God is not only a truce amid conflicts, “but a fraternal fellowship that comes from uniting and not absorbing; from pardoning and not overpowering; from reconciling and not imposing”.

Let us work tirelessly, urged the Pope “for the peace that the Spirit of Jesus and the Father urges us to build: a peace that integrates diversity and promotes unity in plurality”.

“Those who choose Christ choose peace, always; those who unleash war and violence betray the Lord and deny his Gospel.”

“What Jesus teaches us is clear,” added the Pope, “we are to love everyone, since everyone is loved as a child of our common Father in heaven”.

To journey

The third and final verb is “to journey”. The Pope noted that in this country, “Christian communities have been deeply committed to promoting processes of reconciliation”, before expressing his gratitude for this “radiant testimony of faith born of the realisation, expressed not only in words but also in deeds that prior to any historical divisions, there remains one unchanging fact, namely, that we are Christians”. 

Speaking of ecumenism in South Sudan, Pope Francis described this reality as “a precious treasure” and an act of praise for the name of Jesus.

“May the witness of unity among believers overflow to the people as a whole.”

Memory and commitment

Bringing his discourse to an end, Pope Francis introduced two final words for the South Sudanese encouraging them to persevere in their journey: memory and commitment

Memory means making sure that “the steps that you take follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before you. Commitment.  means journeying towards unity when love is concrete. 

Finally, Pope Francis noted that together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, they travelled to South Sudan as “pilgrims, to be with you”.

“Let us love each other constantly, from the heart.”