Francis prays for reconciliation as South Sudan struggles to form coalition government

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2019 / 05:08 am (CNA).- During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis led Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for peace and reconciliation for South Sudan, whose leaders are locked in disagreement as they try to form a government after a peace deal was struck last year.

“I address a special thought to the dear people of South Sudan, whom I will have to visit this year,” he said Nov. 10. “The South Sudanese people have suffered too much in recent years and await with great hope a better future, especially the definitive end of conflicts and lasting peace.”

“I invite you all to pray together for this country, for which I have a special affection,” he added, leading Catholics in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for the intention.

Formerly warring South Sudanese leaders, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar, are in the midst of trying to form a power-sharing government in the country after signing a peace deal in September 2018.

The coalition government was supposed to be formed by Nov. 12, but a 100-day extension was granted Nov. 8, because of ongoing disagreement on key issues.

The country’s Catholic bishops have called the tenuous peace accord in South Sudan “fatally flawed,” because it does not address the root causes of the conflict. The deal was signed following a five-year civil war which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

South Sudan’s civil war also left 2.1 million people internally displaced, and caused another 2.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations.

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled a spiritual retreat he held at the Vatican in April for the South Sudan political leaders, including Mayardit and Machar.

During the retreat, the pope made headlines when he performed the unprecedented gesture of kneeling down and kissing the feet of several of the South Sudanese leaders.

The pope said Nov. 10 he wishes to renew his “invitation to all the actors of the national political process to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a spirit of true brotherhood.”

“I therefore urge those responsible to continue, without tiring, their commitment to an inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good of the nation,” he continued, adding that he hopes the international community will also help South Sudan on the path to national reconciliation.

Pope Francis also asked for prayers for Bolivia, whose national election, held last month, is being reviewed for irregularities.

“I urge all Bolivians, especially political and social actors, to await the results of the election review process, which is currently underway, with a constructive spirit of peace and serenity,” he stated.

In his message before the Angelus, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading. In the passage from Luke, a group of Sadducees question Jesus about whose wife a woman will be after death if she was married, consecutively, to seven brothers, bearing no children by them.

But “Jesus does not fall into the trap,” Francis said. Jesus explains to the Sadducees that “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

With this answer, Jesus invites us to think about how the earthly dimension we live in now is not the only dimension, the pope said. “There is another, no longer subject to death, in which it will be fully manifested that we are children of God.”

“It gives great consolation and hope to hear this simple and clear word of Jesus about life beyond death; we need it so much especially in our time, so rich in knowledge of the universe but so poor in wisdom about eternal life,” he added. “Life belongs to God, who loves us and cares so much about us.”

“May the Virgin Mary help us to live every day in the perspective of what we affirm in the final part of the Creed: ‘I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,’” he concluded.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis noted the Nov. 9 beatification of Maria Emilia Riquelme y Zayas in Granada, Spain.

She was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and of Mary Immaculate, he said, adding that she “was exemplary in the fervor of Eucharistic adoration and generous in service to the most needy.”

He asked for a round of applause for the new blessed and for St. Bartholomew Fernandes of Braga, who was canonized in July through an “equivalent canonization,” also sometimes called “equipollent” or “confirmation of cultus,” which is when a pope chooses to waive the usual requirement of a miracle for canonization, because of the holy person’s established life of virtue and their long-standing veneration as a saint.

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