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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

South Sudan’s leaders will head to Vatican for meetings, retreat

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, his vice presidents and other leaders planned to attend “spiritual retreat” together at the Vatican in early April.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, confirmed on 3rd April that leaders of South Sudan were scheduled to arrive “next week.”

Pope Francis met with Kiir at the Vatican in a private audience on 16th March.

A few days after that meeting, South Sudan’s minister of information, Michael Makuei, told reporters that Kiir was expected to return to the Vatican “for a retreat with a select number of officials.”

The president was invited along “with a delegation that he will nominate to go and attend meetings or what is called a ‘retreat’ in the Vatican from the 11th to 12th of April…in order to go and have meetings with the concerned bodies and the institutions,” Makuei said on 19th March.

Catholic Information Service for Africa, which is run by the Consolata Missionaries’ media centre, reported on 2nd April that South Sudan’s opposition leader, Riek Machar, accepted an invitation by Pope Francis to attend “a meeting” at the Vatican with Kiir.

That meeting, reportedly expected from 9th to 10th April, would focus on building confidence in the September 2018 peace agreement, which was designed to end the nation’s five-year civil war and proposed a transitional government of national unity, according to Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, the deputy spokesman for Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, told reporters on 3rd April that the retreat “will be a moment of spirituality and, above all, an invitation for politicians as well as all the authorities to realize the responsibility they have” to promote peace.

Picture: Pope Francis talks with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan during a private audience at the Vatican on 16th March 2019. The president of South Sudan and a number of officials are scheduled for a “spiritual retreat” at the Vatican in early April. (CNS photo/Paolo Galosi, pool).