In a letter sent to the archbishop of the South Sudanese capital Juba, Pope Francis urged the nation's citizens to find a peaceful solution to conflicts and to seek the common good over personal interests.
Read aloud by Cardinal Peter Turkson during Sunday Mass, the March 23 letter addressed to Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro entreated all parties to “tirelessly seek peaceful solutions, enabling the common good to prevail over particular interests.”
Cardinal Turkson is the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and is currently on a mission of prayer with the South Sudanese people.
Bearing the signature of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter denounced “the fighting that has cost the lives of many innocent people and caused deep wounds and divisions which will take many years to heal.”
South Sudan was formed in 2011 when the region gained independence from the Republic of Sudan following a 20-year-long civil war. However, country has again erupted in violence as forces loyal to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and those allied behind former Vice President Riek Machar have recently come into conflict.
In the letter, Pope Francis highlighted that every day we see “how armed conflicts are generating poverty, hunger, sickness and death,” and emphasized that “we cannot remain indifferent to these realities.”
He grieved the numerous men, women and children who have been forced to flee their homeland and are living “as refugees” or “exiles in conditions unworthy of their human dignity and in which they are no longer seen as persons but as nameless statistics.”
Quoting his Sept. 2013 letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the G20 St. Petersburg Summit last year, the pontiff stated that “without peace there can be no development.”
“For this reason” the Pope issued “a pressing appeal…so that, with the support of the international community,” citizens “may put an end to hostilities and acts of violence, ensure access to humanitarian aid for the needy, and tirelessly seek peaceful solutions, enabling the common good to prevail over particular interests.”
Continuing, the pontiff also encouraged citizens to foster a “culture of encounter,” which above all means “rejecting self-centeredness and insistence on one’s own rights without concern for the rights of others.”
This, he observed, “means seeing in others, not competitors or, worse still, enemies, but rather brothers and sisters to be accepted and with whom to work.”
Emphasizing that “the commitment to create a climate of constructive social creativity must prevail over selfishness and the thirst for power,” the Pope explained that human beings, “are always” put “prior to the State and the various powers which might in some way seek to subject them.”
Referring to what he said in his 2014 Lenten Message, Pope Francis noted that “these weeks of Lent help us to follow Jesus Christ, present in his Church, the ultimate and definitive foundation of our lives and the certainty of our hope.”
“Only when we recognize the presence of Christ are we able to face the future with confidence, without fear and illusion.”
Explaining how this liturgical season is an opportunity to undertake “a path of purification and conversion of mind and heart,” the Pope stated that “Only in this way will we be able to uproot all the false and seductive promises of happiness which enslave us.”
“It is imperative for our consciences to be converted to justice, fraternity and sharing!” he stressed, adding that “In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters, and to assume our responsibility to work concretely towards alleviating them.”
Concluding his letter, the pontiff underlined that the Catholic Church “will remain present and work generously in providing every possible form of assistance.”
“Especially,” he noted, “for the sake of reestablishing a climate of dialogue, reconciliation and peace among all the members of society.”