By Devin Watkins
Christmas is often a time for sending messages of warmth and well-wishes to those we would prefer to see in person.
Pope Francis took part in that age-old tradition by sending Christmas greetings to the people and political leaders of South Sudan.
Like most holiday messages, this one was not written alone.
The Pope was joined by Archbishop Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and Reverend John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
Peace and prosperity
“In this Christmas season and at the beginning of a new year,” they write, “we wish to extend to you and to all the people of South Sudan our best wishes for your peace and prosperity, and to assure you of our spiritual closeness as you strive for a swift implementation of the Peace Agreements.”
The country’s president, Salva Kiir, and opposition leader, Riek Machar, signed a peace deal in 2018 in a bid to end the 5-year civil war, and agreed to form a unity government.
Path of reconciliation
Pope Francis and the two Protestant leaders also encouraged South Sudan’s politicians to continue with efforts toward national unity.
“We raise our prayers to Christ the Saviour for a renewed commitment to the path of reconciliation and fraternity,” they write, “and we invoke abundant blessings upon each of you and upon the entire nation.”
“May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, enlighten you and guide your steps in the way of goodness and truth, and bring to fulfilment our desire to visit your beloved country.”
Papal visit in 2020
Pope Francis announced in November that he intends to visit South Sudan in 2020.
So these Christmas greetings could be soon followed with a long-awaited meeting in person.