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World

Web Desk
April 13, 2019

Pope kisses feet of South Sudan leaders for 'peace'

World

Web Desk
Sat, Apr 13, 2019

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis, in an unprecedented gesture, knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s previously warring leaders on Thursday as he urged them to not return to a civil war.

The 82-year-old pope, who suffers from chronic leg pain,  stunned the leaders with his gesture as he knelt with difficulty to kiss the shoes of the two main opposing leaders and several other people in the room.

He appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to respect an armistice they signed and commit to forming a unity government next month.

“I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems,” Francis said in improvised remarks.

According to some political experts, his appeal was made even more pressing as anxiety grew in South Sudan that Thursday’s coup in neighbouring Sudan might put at risk the fragile peace deal that ended South Sudan’s brutal five-year civil war.

The Vatican brought together South Sudanese leaders for 24 hours of prayer and preaching inside the pope’s residence in an attempt to heal bitter divisions before the country is due to set up a unity government.