By Tablet Staff
JUBA, South Sudan — Hundreds of people greeted Pope Francis’ envoy to South Sudan’s capital on July 5. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin was received by religious leaders, government officials, and hundreds of guests who sang and danced upon his arrival.
[Related: In War-Torn South Sudan, Starvation is Endemic]
“It’s a great joy for me to be with you and to be able to stay for a few days to celebrate and pray,” Cardinal Parolin told reporters at the airport in Juba, “and to meet people on behalf of the Holy Father, Pope Francis.”
Pope Francis was scheduled to visit two African countries — South Sudan and Congo — this month, but the Vatican announced in June that due to the pontiff’s knee pain, he would be forced to postpone. The goal of the trip was to “demonstrate the Pope’s closeness” to the people.
South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, but it came into existence in 2011 with problems such as civil war and famine. About half of South Sudan’s 11 million people are Catholics who hoped the pontiff’s visit would inspire reconciliation in the war which has exacerbated food shortages.
Cardinal Pietro plans to visit a remote camp for internally displaced people later this week. He will also meet with President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar as well as U.N. officials in the country.