Pope 'looks forward' to South Sudan trip despite unrest

The Holy See has already announced that the pontiff will proceed with the latest African pilgrimage of his nine-year-old papacy

Pope Francis, above, will visit South Sudan together with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Jim Wallace, Moderator of the Church of Scotland.  Reuters

Pope Francis is looking forward to visiting South Sudan in July, the pontiff, Archbishop of Canterbury and a Scottish church official said in a joint message.

The Pope is expected to visit South Sudan from July 5 to July 7, amid continuing unrest in the country.

The message released by the Vatican on Monday was addressed to South Sudanese political leaders and signed by the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Jim Wallace, Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

The three church officials will visit South Sudan together.

The Holy See announced two months ago that the pontiff would make the latest African pilgrimage of his nine-year-old papacy, beginning with a pastoral visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo on July 2.

The Pope’s mobility has been limited of late by a nagging knee problem. On Thursday, Francis, 85, was seen for the first time in public using a wheelchair.

The majority of South Sudan’s population is Christian.

Churches helped rally international support when the South Sudanese fought for independence from Sudan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Ceasefire breaches

The Pope’s visit comes as unrest has intensified in South Sudan, with rival political powers trading accusations of breaching a ceasefire and peace agreement.

A 2018 peace agreement ended five years of bloody civil war between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, a conflict that left 400,000 dead and forced four million people to flee their homes.