"That gave hope to the people, and then people became very courageous," Tabani said, adding that with more than 2 million people are living as refugees, now is the time for another papal visit.
"People are dying from hunger, the economic situation is really bad...the people are eager to have consolation, and they are asking 'when will the Pope come?'" he said, explaining that in the meeting, Pope Francis told the delegation that "my heart is bleeding for the people in South Sudan," and asked them to pray that the conditions would change, allowing him to come.
More than 2 million civilians have fled the country in the four years since violence broke out. Neighboring Uganda has so far taken in more than 1 million refugees from South Sudan, leaving resources strained.
In comments to CNA, Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Guru, Uganda, who was also part of the ecumenical delegation that met the Pope, said the situation is out of control. Many people had to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and the majority of refugees, who face a worsening humanitarian crisis, are women, children and elderly.
"You have the youth who don't have enough food, they don't have enough medical support. What they get is the minimum. Some have died of malaria, some have died from other things like cholera, and then they don't have the facilities to prepare the children for the future, education," he said.
Odama said the Ugandan government is willing to help and has pitched in with some NGOs, but lacks the resources to sustain the increasing influx of refugees while also supporting their own citizens who live in poverty.
In northern Uganda near the West Nile area, there are more than 300,000 people living in one camp, he said, explaining that this area "is the most difficult, because the government of Uganda has found itself in a certain level that it cannot afford, because its resources are also limited."
"So to care for its own citizens and at the same time for refugees, it becomes very heavy. This is where the biggest challenge is."
Both Bishop Tabani and Archbishop Odama voiced gratitude to Pope Francis for holding the Feb. 23 day of prayer and fasting for peace in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.
They also asked that the pope appoint more bishops, because many bishops have died and none have been re-appointed. Tabani, who retired early to launch a project aimed at providing education to refugees and promoting peaceful coexistence, said his successor died five years ago and has not been replaced.
Tabini said that upon hearing their requests, Pope Francis did not immediately make any promises or guarantees. "He just listened," the bishop said, adding that "it's good to be a good listener...this is what I like."
(Story continues below)
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