Lodi News-Sentinel

Pope urges peace on six-day Africa trip

- Manuel Schwarz and David Renke

JUBA, South Sudan — Pope Francis returned to the Vatican on Sunday after making repeated and emotional calls for peace during his six-day visit to Congo and South Sudan.

In South Sudan, which is plagued by armed conflict, the pope urged people and politician­s to pray for peace. He also expressed his sympathy for the millions of displaced people in the country.

South Sudan was the second stop on Francis’ Africa trip after the Democratic Republic of Congo, in his first trip abroad this year.

As he flew home, the pope called for curbs on illegal weapons, saying this is a prerequisi­te for peace. There are large numbers of weapons in circulatio­n in Congo and South Sudan.

“The arms trade is the biggest plague in this world today. It is the plague,” Pope Francis said.

Even before the pope had reached the Vatican, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir called the visit a “milestone” for the young nation. His comments came after the pope criticized the leadership in South Sudan for their policies in an unusually direct address.

The pope was urging the leaders to implement their peace agreement and bring other political groups to the negotiatin­g table, in order to finally halt the violence that has displaced so many.

Among the highlights of the pope’s trip was a visit to a refugee camp where Francis expressed sympathy and support for the displaced people he met. The United Nations estimates that more than 2 million people are internally displaced in South Sudan, despite a fragile peace after years of civil war.

The pope was accompanie­d by two Protestant church leaders from the former colonial power Britain: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshiel­ds.

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