A remarkable, spontaneous gesture. Pope Francis once again stunned the world after he broke protocol by kneeling down and kissing the feet of South Sudan’s leaders. The bold move, done at the conclusion to a two-day spiritual retreat for South Sudanese leaders, left the participants who witnessed it speechless.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis hosted a two-day spiritual retreat for religious and political leaders of South Sudan. The event, done as part of ongoing efforts to foster long-term peace in South Sudan, was held at the Pope’s home in Casa Santa Marta and has just concluded last Thursday, April 11.
Officially closing the event was Pope Francis himself. He delivered a formal discourse and––to everyone’s surprise––followed it up with an impromptu address that encouraged the South Sudanese leaders to continue working hand in hand towards attaining lasting peace in their country.
Incredible video of Pope Francis on his knees kissing the feet of the leaders of South Sudan, who have completed a 2 day spiritual retreat at the Vatican, where the Pope has called for peace and reconciliation in the country, and that he wishes to visit South Sudan pic.twitter.com/BEBXj2kLPy
— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) April 11, 2019
“To the three of you who signed the Peace Agreement,” Pope Francis said in his impromptu address, “I ask you as a brother, remain in peace.” He also added, “There will be many problems, but don’t be afraid, go forward, resolve the problems. You have started a process; may it end well.”
The “Peace Agreement” that the Holy Pontiff was referring to was the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan. It was signed last year by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit and vice president designates Riek Machar and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabio––all of whom were present in the retreat.
To close off his address, Pope Francis reminded the South Sudanese leaders of their responsibility to set good examples to their people. “Although struggles will arise,” he advised, these should stay “within the office… Before the people, [keep your] hands united”. He added, in this way, “from simple citizens, you will become Fathers of the Nation.”
This was not the first time that Pope Francis made a bold move to shine a light on how all of us–regardless of our stature and position in society–are equal and should live in unity. Last year, the supreme pontiff broke away from norms as he celebrated the Holy Thursday foot washing ritual not in the cathedral, but in prisons. He reportedly washed and kissed the feet of 12 prison inmates, including two Muslims and a Buddhist.