Francis has called his visit to South Sudan “an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.” The pope will travel together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.
Pope Francis will be the first pope to visit South Sudan, the world’s newest country, which declared independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011.
The pope’s trip to Congo and South Sudan was scheduled to take place last year but was postponed for six months for health reasons.
A stop in the eastern Congolese city of Goma was cut from the pope’s updated schedule amid a resurgence of fighting between the army and rebel groups.
Earlier this month, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing of a church service in the eastern Congolese town of Kasindi that killed at least 14 people. Another armed rebel group, the M23, executed 131 people “as part of a campaign of murders, rapes, kidnappings, and looting against two villages,” the U.N. reported in December.
The pope is scheduled to meet with victims of violence from eastern Congo on Feb. 1 in Kinshasa following a Mass that is expected to draw 2 million people.