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Pope’s kissing of feet gives us new momentum – Riek Machar

Author: Staff | Published: Friday, April 12, 2019

Pope Francis kneels to kiss the feet of FVP-Designate, Dr. Riek Machar, as President Kiir, Madam Rebecca Nyandeng, and others look on at the Vatican on Thursday. (Vatican Media via AP)

The first vice president-designate says  the act by Pope Francis to kiss their feet during the spiritual retreat has given them the courage to implement the September 2018 peace accord.

Pope Francis yesterday kissed the feet of South Sudan leaders during the spiritual retreat at the Vatican.

The retreat was held at the Pope Francis own house, Santa Marta.

In a short footage broadcast by Vatican media, the 82-year-old pope is seen kneeling and kissing the feet of President Salva Kiir, Dr. Riek Machar, Taban Deng Gai, and Rebecca Nyandeng, in that order.

Pope said the first duty of a leader is peace. “Dear brothers and sisters, let us not forget that God has entrusted us, as religious and political leaders, the responsibility of guiding his people.

He has entrusted us and for this reason will require from us much more.”

Reuter’s news agency reported that the Pontiff also appealed to the political leaders to respect any peace agreement they signed and commit to forming a unity government in May.

According to reports, about 400,000 people have lost lives in the conflict which erupted in 2013 over power wrangles between Kiir and Machar.

In addition, the political violence has uprooted over 4 million people from their homes and plunged the country into economic crisis.

For his part, Opposition Leader Dr. Riek Machar, the first vice president-designate, said the act by the pope has given them the push to implement the September 2018 peace accord.

“The appeal he made to us has given a new momentum for all the stakeholders in the peace agreement to ensure that this peace agreement is implemented. So to us, this is a gift from God.”

Meanwhile, a religious leader says kissing of the leaders’ feet by Pope Francis symbolizes that leaders should not be above the people they serve.

“It is linked with the time of Jesus. When Jesus was about to be hanged, he washed the feet of his apostles as a sign of service,” The Vicar-General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba, Father Moris Ladu Felix said.

Father Moris said the act – in which the Pope imitates Jesus, shows that, actions of leaders should be humbling – an act typically fit for a slave or a person of lower rank, in order to serve the people better.

“Imagine someone who is higher than you has to come down and wash your leg and kiss your leg, that means, you … you as a leader, you should come down and understand the problem of the people, move with them and ask them to go ahead.”

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