JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - Pope Francis flew back to Rome on Sunday after a three-day tour of South Sudan. The pope concluded his visit with a Mass before an estimated 100,000 people at the John Garang Mausoleum, where he reiterated a message of peace for the country's faithful.
'Jesus knows your anguish and the hope you bear in your hearts, the joys and struggles that mark your lives, the darkness that assails you and the faith that, like a song in the night, you raise to heaven."
This was Pope Francis's message during a Mass for South Sudan's faithful in the nation's capital of Juba Sunday morning. It was the final day of his African pilgrimage of peace.
The pope's homily wove around the themes of mutual forgiveness for past wrongs and reconciliation.
Archbishop Stephen Ameyu says the pope's message is timely and one the nation needs to hear. South Sudan has endured nearly a decade of civil war.
"It is discouraging that the peace process has moved forward so slowly, war has brought the indiscriminate destruction of human lives ... we have been experiencing looting, raping, economic distortion and the displacement of countless people," Ameyu said.
The pope asked worshippers to shun the 'blind fury of violence.'
People pray as Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 5, 2023.
Speaking through an interpreter, Francis said that "today, I'd like to thank you because you are the salt of the Earth in this country. Yet, when you consider its many wounds the violence that increases the venom of hearted and injustice that causes misery and poverty, you may feel small and powerless at times when violence increases the venom of hatred, and injustice causes misery and poverty.'
During an earlier stop Saturday at Juba's Freedom Hall, Pope Francis met with internally displaced people and listened to the testimonies of children, including that of 16-year-old Joseph.
"We have been affected by floods since 2020; many people have lost their livestock and crops," said Joseph. "We urge the leaders to bring us peace and prosperity continue to pray for lasting peace in South Sudan."
Pope Francis blesses South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, during a farewell ceremony before his departure in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 5, 2023. (Vatican Media/Handout via Reuters)
Johnson Juma Alex, another teenager at the IDP camp from Malakal said this to the pope:
"Peace is good, problems are not," said Alex. "We want peace so that people can go back to their homes; there is no space to play football. I want to have a good future where there is peace... We thank the U.N. because they gave us peace and they gave us protection."
The pope discussed his desire for a resumption of the peace process for South Sudan immediately.
Again, speaking through an interpreter, he said:
"This is my appeal to end all conflict and resume [the] peace process in a serious way and people can return to their homes and live in dignity. There is no room for delay."
The pope was joined on his ecumenical peace mission by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland, representing the Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian religions that make up most of the population in South Sudan.