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Pope Francis Implores Clergy to Raise Voices Against Injustice

Pope Francis meets a displaced girl during a meeting with internally displaced persons in the "Freedom Hall" in Juba, South Sudan, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023.

Pope Francis called on Catholic clergy Saturday, especially those in Africa, to raise their voices against injustice and abuse of power by authorities. Francis was speaking to church leaders on his second day in Juba, South Sudan, where he is on a three-day ecumenical peace pilgrimage.

Pope Francis said Saturday the church should play a significant role in ending violence and bad governance in Africa by speaking out about injustices committed by those in power.

The pope said, if we want to be pastors who intercede, we cannot afford to remain neutral before the pain caused by acts of injustice and violence. To violate any right against any woman or man is an offense against Christ.

The pope was addressing Catholic bishops, priests, and nuns at Juba's St. Therese Cathedral, where he also cautioned against remaining neutral to injustice.

He said we are called to intercede for our people, to raise our voices. We cannot afford to remain neutral.

Using a metaphor, the pope equated the Nile River, which passes through Juba from Lake Victoria, the world's largest freshwater lake, to the Mediterranean Sea, as the tears of the people of South Sudan immersed in endless suffering.

The pontiff asked, how can we exercise our ministry in this land, along the banks of a river bathed in so much innocent blood, among the tear-stained faces of the people entrusted to us?

He challenged the clergy to be "courageous and generous souls, ready to suffer and die for Africa.

He told said we need courageous, generous souls ready to die for Africa,"

On Friday, Pope Francis urged South Sudanese leaders to shun violence and embrace peace and he also called on the international community to refrain from interfering in the affairs of a sovereign Africa.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is accompanying the ecumenical pilgrimage.

“My heart breaks. I can hardly speak with sorrow for South Sudan. I beg that at every level, from the president to the smallest child, that people find the mercy of God and are transformed. And that there is peace and good government," Welby said. "That they will not steal money. That no one kills their neighbors for cattle.”

Rebecca Nyandeng, wife of South Sudan founding father the late John Garang, told citizens to shun ethnic divisions.

She said, I am heartbroken that Dr. John died for the independence of this country, yet the very people he died for are now killing themselves. By the fact that you are still killing yourselves, it means he had died in vain. Please accept one another, stop division and stop killing each other. God has come to us in the form of the visit of Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury and Moderator General of the Church of Scotland.

The three religious leaders later, participated in a joint interdenominational prayer session.

This historic ecumenical visit by the prominent religious leaders is considered a sign of inter-religious unity and their commitment to bear witness to the Gospel, as well as an action to promote peace and reconciliation among the people of South Sudan.