Pope Francis to visit South Sudan next year

Pope Francis has urged the leaders of South Sudan to overcome their divisions and to find consensus for the good of the country.

Speaking at his weekly blessing in the Vatican, the Pope said he hoped to visit South Sudan next year.

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011 but has been crippled by conflict ever since.

President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018.

However, on Thursday the two leaders agreed to delay forming a unity government until February next year.

Although the ceasefire has largely held, the peace deal is still on shaky ground, according to the BBC’s Africa editor Will Ross.

There are fears the breakdown of the deal could lead to the return of large scale violence in the predominantly Christian country, our correspondent adds.

Pope Francis, who didn’t detail his travel plans to South Sudan, hosted the two rivals in the Vatican in April.

He knelt to kiss their feet as he urged them not to return to civil war.

An estimated 382,000 people are believed to have died in the years of fighting following South Sudan’s 2013 descent into civil war. -BBC

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