On Thursday, 11th April 2019, Pope Francis was captured on camera kneeling and kissing the feet of South Sudan’s rival leaders. He knelt before South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, opposition leader Riek Machar, and Kiir’s three vice-presidents. They were all at the Pope’s Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. This occurred at the close of a two-day retreat for the African leaders in the residence.
Pope Francis took such measures as an act of humility. He did this to encourage them to strengthen the country’s already faltering state of peace.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011 and broke into civil war in 2013. Ever since there has been an increase in bloody civil wars with over 400,000 deaths reported. This, amongst other reasons, led to the two-day Vatican meeting. It occurred a month before the end of “the shaky peace deal’s pre-transitional period.”
News24 reports, “On May 12th, opposition leader Machar is expected to return to South Sudan and once again serve as Kiir’s deputy.”
After the humble act of the Pope, he made a closing statement to the leaders. He said:
“I express my heartfelt hope that hostilities will finally cease, that the armistice will be respected, that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted and that there will be a lasting peace for the common good of all those citizens who dream of beginning to build the nation.”
None of the South Sudan leaders commented in response.
Watch the video below: