South Sudanese soldiers prepare for Pope's visit in Juba South Sudanese soldiers prepare for Pope's visit in Juba 

Fighting kills 27 as Pope Francis heads to South Sudan

Fighting has killed 27 people ahead of Pope Francis' arrival in South Sudan for an ecumenical pilgrimage with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

According to the agencies, 27 civilians were killed and several others injured in a cattle-related attack in the African country's Kajo-Keji County in Lire Payam on Thursday.

Anglican Archbishop Paul Yugusuk of the Central Equatoria Internal Province of the Episcopal Conference of South Sudan denounced the violence, marking the latest communal violence between cattle herders and other residents.

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, likewise, expressed his closeness in a tweet.

The Head of the Anglican Church tweeted his sorrow for those killed in Kajo-Keji "on the eve of our Pilgrimage of Peace."

"It is a story too often heard across South Sudan. I again appeal for a different way: for South Sudan to come together for a just peace," he wrote.

Imminent papal visit

Pope Francis has bid farewell to the Democratic Republic of Congo, marking the end of the first leg of his two-nation 40th Apostolic Journey abroad.

The Pope's flight departed from the “Ndjili” International Airport in the DRC's capital of Kinshasa at 10:49 AM local time.

It was carrying the Pope and more than 70 journalists. 

The Holy Father visited the DRC from 31 January to 3 February,  and the papal flight lands in South Sudan this afternoon.

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, the Pope knelt at their feet and begged them to work for peace and to be worthy fathers of their nation.

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

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03 February 2023, 10:55