Justin Welby (L) has said he and the Pontiff have a "shared passion" for peace in South Sudan. Credit/BBC

Justin Welby (L) has said he and the Pontiff have a “shared passion” for peace in South Sudan. Credit/BBC

Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby plan visit to South Sudan

Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, plan to travel to South Sudan if the country’s warring political sides form a unity government by February 2020, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

The two church leaders discussed the plan after “friendly discussions”, calling the situation in South Sudan “sorrowful”, the statement said.

In April, Pope Francis hosted President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar for a retreat at the Vatican and created a sensation afterwards when he kissed the South Sudanese leaders’ feet.

The Pope told the two leaders at the time: “Your people are awaiting your return to your country, the reconciliation of all its members, and a new era of peace and prosperity for all.”

The unity government was due to be formed by 12 November following a peace deal last year.

However, earlier this month the two leaders agreed to postpone the formation of the government by 100 days.

The US criticised the move and questioned the suitability of Mr Kiir and Mr Machar to lead South Sudan which has been riven by civil conflict since 2013.

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