Pope puts off South Sudan visit amid security concerns

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.
Pope Francis

Pope Francis will not visit South Sudan this year, the Vatican said on Tuesday, after an Italian newspaper reported that a mooted trip had been put off because it was considered too dangerous.

South Sudan is suffering from famine and a civil war that started more than three years ago.

Francis was planning a trip with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who represents the majority religion in the country on October 15.

“A possible trip has been under study, but it will not take place this year,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said.

He reacted to a report by Rome-based paper Il Messaggero, according to which the decision not to go was taken “a few days ago” after a delegation that went to South Sudan concluded that security was too precarious.

Francis had said in February that he was considering a trip to South Sudan.

On May 3, the Catholic Archbishop of the South Sudanese capital, Juba, Paulino Loro, told the La Stampa newspaper that he was working to welcome Francis and Welby in the city on Oct. 15.

The pope’s only scheduled trips for the rest of the year include a visit to Colombia on Sept. 6 to Sept. 10, and one to Bangladesh and India during dates that have yet to be confirmed.



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