Pope Francis To Visit South Sudan
Pope Francis will visit South Sudan in October if the security situation in the country stricken by civil war and famine does not worsen, a bishop from the country said on Tuesday.
The pope has said several times that he wants to go to the country to preach peace but so far no time frame has been given.
“We have been informed (by a Vatican official) that he will come in October but we don’t know the exact date yet,” Bishop Erkolano Tombe of the city of Yei, said in an interview.
“It depends on the security situation between now and October. If it remains as it is now, he will come,” Tombe said. He said October was towards the end of rainy season, which starts next month.
Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar ended with fighting, often along ethnic lines. Both sides have targeted civilians, human rights groups say.
Kiir’s government and the United Nations have declared a famine in some part of the world’s youngest country, where nearly half of its population of 5.5 million face food shortages.
Tombe, in Rome for meetings of the Catholic charity group Caritas Internationalis, said the situation was dire in his city of Yei, which lies southwest of the capital Juba and near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Many people have died. They were shot while trying to harvest their crops … There are over 100,000 people trapped in Yei,” he said.