JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
South Sudanese added their voices to the round-the-world chorus welcoming Pope Francis, saying the choice of the archbishop of Buenos Aires to lead the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics fills them with hope.
Many expressed the hope that the new pope will uphold the church's morals and traditions, and some said they see the election of the first pope from the Americas as a first step toward having a pontiff from Africa.
But for the most part, South Sudanese expressed the hope that the new pontiff would serve as a unifying and guiding moral force in the church.
South Sudanese follow mainly traditional religions or Christianity, unlike the people of Sudan who are predominantly Muslim. South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July 2011, six years after a comprehensive peace agreement ended a 22-year civil war.
Around a quarter of South Sudan's population of 8.26 million is Roman Catholic -- a higher ratio than in Africa as a whole, where 16 percent of the population is Catholic.
President Salva Kiir is one of the country's best known Catholics and has pledged at St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba that South Sudan will respect people's right to worship as they choose.