Pope Francis kisses feet of rival South Sudan leaders

Pope Francis kneels before President Salva Kiir of South Sudan to kiss his shoes in an appeal for the continuation of peace between former warring factions in the African nation

The pope kissed Kiir and Machar's feet, as well as those of Kiir's three vice presidents.

"By your gift, Father, may the whole-hearted search for peace resolve disputes, may love conquer hatred and may revenge be disarmed by forgiveness, so that, relying exclusively on your mercy, we may find our way back to you", he prayed.

Machar said he discussed the extension with President Salva Kiir during a retreat at the Vatican that ended on Thursday with an appeal by Pope Francis to the leaders to respect an armistice and resolve their differences. "Your people today are yearning for a better future, which can only come about through reconciliation and peace", he said. He has assured his disciples of the victory of peace over everything that fans the flames of war: "pride, greed, the lust for power, self-interest, lies and hypocrisy", Francis said.

Recall that President Kiir and rival Machar, clashed in 2013 leading to a civil war that left 400,000 people dead.

"Machar and Kiir can champion the process, the Head of the Catholic Church said". The National Salvation Front had not signed the September 2018 peace accord.

He challenged the leaders to consider their responsibility before God to serve their people. "There will be many problems, but do not be afraid", he told the leaders, speaking without a text at the end of the meeting.

He stressed, "I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. So it is unlikely that we will form the government by the twelfth of May", he said. In this service, we may well have made mistakes, some rather small, others much greater.

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The gesture by the pope portrays how badly he would like to see peace restored to South Sudan. "However, there will be little expectation that it will yield any real progress absent external pressure or an unforeseen change", Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the U.N. Security Council Panel of Experts for South Sudan, told Reuters. "It is to reflect on our own lives and the common mission the Lord has entrusted to us, to recognize our enormous shared responsibility for the present and future of the people of South Sudan, and to commit ourselves, reinvigorated and reconciled, to the building up of your nation".

Both the South Sudanese government and former rebels expressed alarm over the coup.

More than a third have been uprooted from their homes and around 400,000 have died in the civil war, which plunged parts of the country into starvation and has been characterized by such extreme sexual violence and widespread ethnic cleansing that the United Nations warned in 2017 of a possible genocide.

In a report by Reuters, it was gathered that the event played out Thursday, April 11, during the pope's short retreat at the Vatican.

A prior trip to the war torn country with Welby was cancelled in 2017 due to security concerns. Too many of them have died or been forced from their homes or face starvation because of five years of civil war.

"Peace is the fundamental condition for ensuring the rights of each individual and the integral development of an entire people".

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