With a trip to South Sudan postponed indefinitely, Pope Francis is sending close to a half-million pounds to help two Church-run hospitals, a teacher training centre and farming projects for families as a way to show the people there his solidarity and support.
Because a planned trip with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury couldn’t happen this year as hoped, Pope Francis “wants to make tangible the presence and closeness of the Church with the suffering people through this initiative ‘The Pope for South Sudan’,” Cardinal Peter Turkson told reporters at a Vatican news conference on 21st June.
“He fervently hopes to be able to go there as soon as possible on an official visit to the nation; the church does not shut hope out of such an afflicted area,” said the cardinal, who is prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
An official visit was meant to draw the world’s attention to a silent tragedy, give voice to those suffering, and encourage conflicting parties to make renewed and greater efforts in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, the cardinal said.
Already in March, Pope Francis had expressed doubts about the possibility of making the trip, saying in an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, that visiting South Sudan would be “important,” but that “I don’t believe that it is possible.” The pope approved the project funding in April, a month before the Vatican announced the trip’s delay.
Picture: South Sudanese Catholics pray during Mass in 2011 at a church in Juba. Pope Francis has donated about £500,000 to Church charities in the violence-afflicted country to show solidarity. (CNS photo/ Mohmaed Messara, EPA).