Cardinal Parolin meets President Kiir: "The fight for peace is only necessary fight"
By Salvatore Cernuzio - Juba
"The only necessary fight is the one for peace and development. It is a battle to be waged all together. Peace and development are two things linked: without peace, there is no development. And the absence of peace is a source of instability and dissatisfaction," said Cardinal Parolin during his meeting with the South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir.
The tone for the 30-minute meeting on Tuesday was set by the memory of the 2019 retreat at the Vatican attended by the leaders of South Sudan, during which the Pope, in a shocking gesture, kissed their feet.
First official meeting
The meeting took place in the afternoon inside the Presidential Palace and was the first official appointment of the Secretary of State's trip to Juba. On Wednesday, the Cardinal heads to the camp for displaced persons in Bentiu, in the north of the country.
President Kiir appeared in the meeting room wearing a distinctive black felt hat and a cane. Several times, he repeated "welcome to Juba!" to Cardinal Parolin and his delegation, wishing them peaceful days ahead.
President Kirr confident in Pope Francis’ visit
During the meeting, the first thoughts naturally went to Pope Francis, his health and his postponed visit to Africa. As in recent days in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Secretary of State reiterated the Pope's desire to visit, as soon as conditions permit.
"I am confident of the Pope's visit," Salva Kiir said, assuring that the country is ready to support this important event, and that all Christians of the different denominations have united to pray for the Pontiff's speedy recovery.
Reconciliation and peace
A message from the Pope to the South Sudanese president was delivered by Cardinal Parolin. The message followed two major lines: reconciliation and peace – not two ideas - but two concrete goals to be achieved.
Cardinal Parolin highlighted the Pope’s recognition of the steps taken by the government in the four years since the retreat in the Vatican, but in his speech, the Secretary of State further insisted on other things to be done to ensure stability in the country, including implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement which was begun by the country and is due to expire in February 2023.
The Secretary of State also pointed out the path forward, particularly in view of next year's general elections, urging the country to promote national unity, stabilize the country, introduce constitutional reform, and encourage the drive for unity, which is "necessary for the development of South Sudan."
Pope Francis’ words in 2019
Cardinal Parolin then re-echoed the last lines of the speech addressed by the Pope to the leaders at the day of prayer, dialogue and encounter in the Vatican, at which President Salva Kiir, Vice Presidents-designate Riek Machar and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabio, were present.
“And to you three, who have signed the peace Agreement, I ask, as a brother: remain in peace. I ask you this wholeheartedly. Let us go forwards. There will be many problems, but do not be fearful, go forwards, solve the problems. You have begun a process: may it finish well.”
The silence of the weapons
President Salva Kiir then spoke about the two days spent at the Vatican. “We came back from Rome and we did not fight anymore," he assured. "I said no to new wars. People may not have seen developments, but they heard the silence of weapons."
"We don't allow anyone to start a war. I don't want to fight anymore, now we want peace in the country,” the South Sudanese President said to the Cardinal, promising that everything possible will be done to prevent violations and protect the people.
"Do everything with God's help," Cardinal Parolin said in reply.
Political forces at the service of progress
The Cardinal and the President then spoke about the challenges faced by South Sudan from both domestic and international fronts. They did not also fail to mention preparations for the upcoming elections.
Cardinal Parolin insisted that the elections are “an important step to consolidate peace and reconciliation” adding that “all political forces must be at the service of the progress and development of the country.”
Meeting with Vice President Riek Machar
The meeting with President Kiir was followed by another meeting with first Vice President Riek Machar which lasted for about 30 minutes. Sitting in his office, Machar recalled his 2019 meeting with Pope Francis.
He noted that the Pope’s arrival in South Sudan would boost the various processes underway, as this was what was already happening in the months leading up to the postponed papal trip.
“We were preparing to show concrete results," Machar said. The hope, for his part, is that something will set in motion the process of implementing the Revitalized Peace agreement, before it expires.
Though it is a goal that is certainly not easy to achieve, Riek Machar hopes that South Sudan will not lack the Holy See's help.
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