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Ex-Missionary in Sudan: "The Pope has been trying to end the war for a long time"

Fr. Alex Zanotelli is a Comboni Missionary and former editor of the Italian magazine Nigrizia. He was a missionary in Sudan when it was one country. Fr. Zanotelli believes that Pope Francis' visit to South Sudan can help bring an end to the civil war which continues even after several peace agreements signed by the country's leaders.

Comboni Missionary, former Director Nigrizia

Really, I call it a great gift from God. Pope Francis has been trying to help solve the problems in South Sudan for a long time. I remember that in the Vatican he's the one who had the courage to invite the warring leaders.
And he kissed their feet. It was precisely an act of humility to do everything to that we can start to end this war.

Fr. Zanotelli emphasizes the ecumenical character of this papal trip. Pope Francis will be accompanied by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Together, the three can do a lot for peace.

Comboni Missionary, former Director Nigrizia

A large part of the South Sudanese people identify either with the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church. There are also Muslims, but most, I would say, are Christians. So here is an appeal made with both the primacy of the Anglican church and Pope Francis. They are appealing to people's consciences to welcome each other and to be enriched by their own diversity.

The former editor of Nigrizia magazine knows that Pope Francis is taking a risk by traveling to South Sudan. However, he believes it is important for the Pope to show his support for missionaries in the territory. For example, in 2015, after twelve people were killed in the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo magazine, Pope Francis has shared his solidarity with the people in South Sudan.

Sometimes I ask myself, what if something were to happen to me? If that happens, I have asked the Lord for the grace of not being harmed, because I don't have much courage when it comes to pain. Of that I am fearful.

Comboni Missionary, former Director Nigrizia

Clearly the dangers are always there because you can come and be in the middle of guerrilla warfare. And you could actually be killed. This threat is always present in South Sudan. You have to acknowledge it and be ready because it is also a reality for the missionaries. It is not easy. They are really heroic. It is very beautiful to see men and women who really put their lives on the line to be by these people who are suffering so much at this time.

Pope Francis will visit South Sudan from February 3-5. It is a highly anticipated trip after he had to postpone it due to his knee problems last year.