Pope Francis at the conclusion of his remarks at the end of the spiritual retreat with the South Sudan’s leaders, fell to his knees, kissing the feet of the men to implore them to maintain the tenuous peace that exists between them.
The spontaneous gesture happened during a spiritual retreat at the Casa Santa Marta in Vatican, attended by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and vice president designates Riek Machar and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabio.
“To the three of you who signed the Peace Agreement, I ask you, as a brother, remain in peace”, the Pope said.
“I ask you from the heart. Let us move forward. There will be many problems, but don’t be afraid, go forward, resolve the problems”. In remarks following his address, Pope Francis said, “You have started a process; may it end well. Although struggles will arise, he said, these should stay “within the office”.
However in public, he said, “before the people; keep your hands united”. In this way, the Pope said, “from simple citizens, you will become Fathers of the Nation”.
Last September, Mr. Kiir and his former vice president turned opposition leader, Mr. Machar, signed a peace agreement in Ethiopia which Pope congratulated them for their signatories on the document for having “chosen the path of dialogue”, for their “readiness to compromise”, and for their “determination to achieve peace”.
Pope Francis defined the purpose of the retreat as one of “standing together before God and discerning His will”.