South Sudan Awaits Historical Pope Visit.

As the historical visit draws closer, the country is on its toes to welcome the high profile visit. When Pope Francis makes his much anticipated ecumenical visit to South Sudan in July with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace it will mark a major milestone in the pontiff’s years long efforts to encourage the country’s delicate peace process.

Yet before Francis was even elected pope, it was the international Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay-led Catholic social service organization based in Rome, that had been paving the way for this historic moment.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, gained its independence in July 2011. Long before then, however Sant’Egidio was present in the country, tracing its relationship or what Sant’Egidio’s secretary general, Paolo Impagliazzo, refers to as its “friendship” to 1994.

Then the first delegation from Sant’Egidio arrived from Rome when the country was just Sudan. Seventeen years later, nearly 99% of the South Sudanese voted for independence, and just two years later, the country was engulfed in a bloody civil war after a rift between its president, Salva Kiir, and his vice president and political rival, Riek Machar.

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