Pope Francis arrives in South Sudan for ‘ecumenical pilgrimage’

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Pope Francis has arrived in South Sudan, where he is embarking upon an ecumenical pilgrimage.

The Pope’s flight landed at Juba International Airport at 2:45 PM local time.

The plane had departed from the “Ndjili” International Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital of Kinshasa at 10:39 AM local time, carrying the Holy Father and more than 70 journalists.

The Pope’s farewell to the Democratic Republic of Congo, marked the end of the first leg of his two-nation, 40th, Apostolic Journey abroad, and his fifth Journey to Africa.

Pope Francis visited the DRC from 31 January to 3 February, following in the footsteps of Pope St. John Paul II, who visited there in 1980 and 1985. 

Much-desired ecumenical pilgrimage

The Pope will spend three days in South Sudan on an ecumenical pilgrimage for peace with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

For years, Pope Francis has expressed his strong desire to travel to predominantly-Christian South Sudan, but the unstable situation in the country, along with the pandemic, complicated plans for a visit.

In April 2019, the Pope hosted a spiritual retreat in the Vatican for the political leaders and ecclesiastical authorities of South Sudan.

At the retreat in the Casa Santa Marta, he knelt at their feet and begged them to work for peace and to be worthy fathers of their nation.

Pope kneels to kiss the feet of President of South Sudan at the end of a two-day spiritual retreat with South Sudan leaders at the Vatican in April 2019.

What to expect

The Holy Father will stay in the nation’s capital of Juba, and will have meetings with various Church and civil groups, including several internally displaced people.

Following a Mass for the country’s faithful on Sunday morning, Pope Francis will return to Rome. 

At the completion of this Journey on Sunday, the Pope will have visited 60 countries since the start of his pontificate.

Pope’s closeness to Africa

This visit marks the Holy Father’s fifth Apostolic Journey to the African continent.

In 2015, he went to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, and in 2017 visited Egypt. Then, in March 2019, he made an Apostolic Journey to Morocco, and later in the same year to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius in September 2019.

The Pope was forced to postpone this visit to DRC and South Sudan, originally scheduled for July 2022, due to intense knee pain.

At the time, the Holy Father sent the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to both countries on his behalf, expressing his disappointment to have been unable to make the visit, as well as his great desire to travel to both nations as soon as possible.

Source: vaticannews.va