Pope says Church must be willing to dirty its hands in South Sudan visit

Juba, Feb 4 (EFE).- Pope Francis on Saturday said the Catholic Church must be willing to “dirty its hands” for the cause of the people during a meeting with religious officials in crisis-hit South Sudan.

South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011, making it the world’s youngest country. But its new-found independence soon set the stage for a civil war that directly and indirectly caused an estimated 400,000 deaths and plunged the nation into a humanitarian crisis with widespread poverty and food shortages.

“Our first duty is not to be a Church that is perfectly organized, but a Church that, in the name of Christ, stands in the midst of people’s troubled lives, a Church that is willing to dirty its hands for people,” Francis said at the St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba, the capital.

He mentioned the Nile river, which flows through South Sudan, and drew a link with the mention of water in the Bible, which is often associated with creation.

“The waters of the great river, in effect, collect the sighs and sufferings of your communities, the pain of so many shattered lives, the tragedy of a people in flight, the sorrow and fear in the hearts and eyes of so many women and children.”

He added: “If we want to be pastors who intercede, we cannot remain neutral before the pain caused by acts of injustice and violence. To violate the fundamental rights of any woman or man is an offense against Christ.”

Some 70% of South Sudan’s population is Christian, of which 40% are Catholics.

Francis arrived in Juba on Friday following a three-day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is due to meet later with some of the roughly two million internally displaced people in South Sudan. An estimated two million South Sudanese are currently taking refuge in neighboring countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda.

Francis was accompanied Saturday by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields. EFE


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