ROME - Pope Francis urged the faithful on Sunday to pray for unity in South Sudan and said he hoped to visit the country in 2020. He also urged prayers for a nation close to his own, Bolivia, which has been rocked by weeks of political unrest following disputed elections.
Pope Francis has long been concerned about the political situation in South Sudan and had a special thought for the nation during his greeting to the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday. He recalled the spiritual retreat of South Sudanese leaders in the Vatican earlier this year and made his appeal.
The pope urged “all the actors of the national political process to seek unity and to overcome their differences, in a spirit of true brotherhood.”
Francis added that the South Sudanese people have suffered too much in recent years and await with great hope a better future, the definitive end of conflicts and a lasting peace. He called on the country’s leaders to continue tirelessly with their commitment to an inclusive dialogue in the search for an agreement, for the good of the nation.
Pope Francis also expressed the hope that the international community would not neglect South Sudan as it moves on the path to national reconciliation.
Two years after South Sudan gained its independence, in 2013, civil war erupted in the country with President Salva Kir accusing his deputy Rieck Machar of orchestrating a coup against him. The two leaders who both came to the Vatican in April have committed to forming a unity government.
The Pope, who traveled this year to the African nations of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius, told the faithful he hoped to travel to South Sudan next year.
Francis also turned his thoughts to a nation close to his own in Latin America. Bolivia has been in a state of political unrest since disputed elections were held on October 20.
The pope urged “all Bolivians, especially political and social leaders, to await with a constructive spirit and without any preconditions and in a climate of peace and serenity the results of the election review process which is currently underway”.
President Evo Morales officially won the vote but delay in the vote count of nearly one day led opponents to claim the vote was manipulated. Protests and violence erupted which have led to a number of deaths and hundreds of injured. Morales, who is the longest standing leader in Latin America, has accused the opposition of organizing a coup against the state.
On Sunday, after the Organization of American States released a report that the election should be annulled due to irregularities, President Morales said he would call fresh elections. He also announced he would be replacing members of the electoral board.