In his final greetings at the conclusion of Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome he received, and for all the work that went into making his visit possible.
He thanked the people of South Sudan not only for their affection for him personally, “but also for your faith and patience, for the good you do and the hardships that you willingly offer to God without growing discouraged but continuing to move forward.”
Hope: a gift to share
Noting the close union between Christian communities in the country, the Pope recalled the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reference to Saint Josephine Bakhita, “a great woman who by God’s grace transformed into hope all the sufferings that she endured.”
Hope, said the Pope, “is the word I would leave with each of you, as a gift to share, a seed to bear fruit.” He said that women, “especially here, are a sign of hope,” as he thanked and blessed all the women of the country.
Journey to peace
The Holy Father then emphasized another word “that has echoed in these days […] and in days yet to come: Peace.”
The Pope went on to say that he, along with Archbishop Justin Welby and Dr Iain Greenshields who had made the ecumenical journey with him, would continue to accompany the people of South Sudan, and do all they can to assist in the journey toward lasting peace.
May hope and peace dwell in South Sudan
“I would like to entrust the path of reconciliation and peace to another woman,” he said, “the greatest and at the same time the least, the most exalted and yet the one closest to each one of us”: the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“We pray to her now,” he continued, “and we entrust to her the cause of peace in South Sudan and in the entire African continent, where so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith experience persecution and danger, where great numbers of people suffer from conflict exploitation, exploitation, and poverty.” And recalling especially the war in Ukraine, the Pope also entrusted to Mary the cause of peace throughout the world.
Assuring the people of South Sudan that they were even closer to his heart as he returned to Rome, Pope Francis concluded his message with a word of encouragement: Never lose hope! And lose no opportunity to build peace.”
“May hope and peace dwell among you. And may hope and peace dwell in South Sudan!”