Pope kisses feet of South Sudan leaders

Pope Francis is seen kissing the feet of South Sudan’s leaders

Pope Francis has yesterday during a Vatican Retreat with South Sudan's President and Riek Machar, the former Rebel Leader done the unexpected to drive his message of Peace home.

Pope Francis has kissed the feet of the South Sudan's previous warring leaders, imploring them to maintain the "fragile" peace that exists between them.

Pope Francis asked South Sudan's President and opposition leader to proceed with the peace agreement despite growing tension. "Resolve your problems", the pope is quoted as having told the Sudanese leaders.

The leaders appeared to be stunned as the 82-year-old Pope, who suffers from chronic leg pain, was helped by aides as he knelt with difficulty to kiss the shoes of the two main opposing leaders and several other people in the room.

Pope Francis continued to show the true reflection of teachings in Christendom on Thursday as he met with Sudanese politicians. "I had never seen anything like that. Tears were flowing from my eyes", she said.

Sudan, a largely Muslim nation, granted the largely Christian south its independence in 2011 after decades of scorched-earth fighting.

Kiir and Machar were once rivals, with Kiir accusing Machar - his former deputy - of staging a 2013 coup. Two years later, South Sudan plunged into its own intermittent civil war, with some 400,000 people killed and almost a third of the population uprooted.

During a spiritual retreat at his residence on Thursday, Francis urged the two rivals and three other vice presidents to respect an armistice they signed a year ago and commit to forming a unity government next month.

They however signed a peace agreement a year ago that brought the war to an end.

The Vatican, together with the South Sudan Council of Churches and the Rome-based Sant' Egidio worldwide peace group, brought the leaders together for prayer and preaching inside the pope's residence in an attempt to heal divisions.

"So we need to establish adequate security from the two forces so that our people can have confidence that this agreement will hold".

The pontiff said he hoped "that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted, and that there will be a lasting peace for the common good of all those citizens who dream of beginning to build the nation". "If a delay makes Machar feel more secure and ends the war, it will be worth it", Peter Martell, an author of a history of South Sudan, told Reuters. He also repeated his wish to visit the country along with other religious leaders to solidify the peace.

The pope commented on the uniqueness of the "spiritual retreat" co-hosted by the Secretariat of State and the offfice of Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.

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