GOD will ask us to render an account not only of our own lives but the lives of others as well, says Pope Francis.
And Pope Francis kissed the feet of South Sudan’s previously warring leaders during a two-day spiritual retreat at the Vatican.
President Salva Kiir and his rival, the former rebel leader Riek Machar, clashed in 2013 leading to a civil war that left 400,000 people dead.
But they signed a peace agreement last year that brought the war to an end.
In his address, Pope Francis said peace was possible.
He said the purpose of the retreat was “for us to stand together before God and to discern [H]is will.”
“It is to reflect on our own lives and the common mission the Lord has entrusted to us, to recognise our enormous shared responsibility for the present and future of the people of South Sudan, and to commit ourselves, reinvigorated and reconciled, to the building up of your nation,” Pope Francis said. “Let us not forget that God has entrusted to us, as political and religious leaders, the task of being guides for His people. He has entrusted much to us, and for this reason will require from us much more! He will demand an account of our service and our administration, our efforts on behalf of peace and the well-being of the members of our communities, especially the marginalised and those most in need. In other words, He will ask us to render an account not only of our own lives, but the lives of others as well.”
Pope Francis said the cry of the poor who hunger and thirst for justice “binds us in conscience and commits us in our ministry.”
“They are the least in the eyes of the world, yet precious in God’s eyes. In using the expression ‘God’s eyes’, I think of the gaze of the Lord Jesus. Every spiritual retreat, like our daily examination of conscience, should make us feel that, with our whole being, our entire history, all our virtues and even our vices, we stand before the gaze of the Lord, who is able to see the truth in us and to lead us fully to that truth,” Pope Francis said. “The Word of God gives us a striking example of how the encounter with the gaze of Jesus can mark the most important moments in the life of a disciple…. In a real way, all of us can say that we were called to the life of faith and were chosen by God, but also by our people, to serve them faithfully. In this service, we may well have made mistakes, some rather small, others much greater. Yet the Lord Jesus always forgives the errors of those who repent. He always renews his trust, while demanding – of us especially – total dedication to the cause of his people. Jesus is also gazing, here and now, upon each one of us. He looks at us with love, he asks something, he forgives something and he gives us a mission.”
Pope Francis urged the leaders to renounce the paths that lead to sin and death and pursue the paths of peace and goodness.
“My thoughts turn first to all those who have lost their loved ones and their homes, to families that were separated and never reunited, to all the children and the elderly, and the women and men who have suffered terribly on account of the conflicts and violence that have spawned so much death, hunger, hurt and tears,” he said. “I think often of these suffering souls and I pray that the fires of war will finally die down, so that they can return to their homes and live in serenity. I pray to Almighty God that peace will come to your land, and I ask all men and women of good will to work for peace among your people. Peace is possible. I shall never tire of repeating this: peace is possible! Yet this great gift of God is at the same time a supreme duty on the part of those with responsibility for the people. We Christians believe and know that peace is possible, for Christ is risen. He has overcome evil with good. He has assured his disciples of the victory of peace over everything that fans the flames of war: pride, greed, the lust for power, self-interest, lies and hypocrisy.”
Pope Francis urged South Sudanese to seek “what unite you, beginning with the fact that you belong to one and the same people, and to overcome all that divides you.”
“People are wearied, exhausted by past conflicts: please remember that with war, all is lost! Your people today are yearning for a better future, which can only come about through reconciliation and peace,” said Pope Francis.