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Pope Francis, Kiir discussed peace and reconciliation in South Sudan


March 16, 2019 (JUBA) - Pope Francis and President Salva Kiir on Saturday discussed implementation process of the revitalized peace agreement and the Catholic Church contribution to achieving reconciliation in South Sudan.

President Kiir, according to the presidency in Juba, Kiir arrived in Italy on Friday," at the invitation of his Holiness Father Pope Francis for talks on bilateral relations".

According to a statement released by the Vatican Press Office, Pope Francis and President Kiir discussed "the contribution of the Catholic Church in the fields of education and healthcare, and in the process of reconciliation and the reconstruction of the nation".

"Attention then turned to matters regarding the implementation of the (revitalized) agreement (...), the return of refugees and displaced persons, and the integral development of the country," stressed the statement.

The South Sudanese government and its peace partners are struggling to implement the revitalized peace agreement which is faced by international scepticism and lack of needed funds to enforce it.

In a report released on Wednesday, the International Crisis Group said the peace pact that ended the five-year armed conflict in South Sudan risks to collapse pointing to the need for further talks to achieve the army reunification and to settle the tribal boundaries disputes.

During their meeting, Kiir extended an official invitation for Pope Francis to visit and hold peace prayers in South Sudan, said the South Sudanese presidency.

While the Vatican, for its part said that Pope Francis "expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan, as a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process".

In 2017, the Catholic Church announced a visit of Pope Francis to South Sudan in October of that year. However, the security conditions due to the continuation of war did not allow such a visit.

President Salva Kiir was accompanied by the Minister of the Office of the President, Mayiik Ayii Deng, Environment Minister Josephine Naphwon, Humanitarian Affairs Minister Hussein Maar Nyaut, and the Head of External Security, Thomas Duop.

(ST)