Pope Francis Kisses Feet Of Rival South Sudan Leaders

82-Year-Old Pope Kisses Feet Of Leaders For'Peace, Leaves Them Stunned

Pope Francis kisses shoes of Sudanese leaders in plea for peace

The Pope caused a stir when he bent down to kiss the feet of the previously warring South Sudan leaders who were on a two-day spiritual retreat at the Vatican.

"I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward", he said after he performed the rare gesture.

Machar was Kiir's vice president until a falling out in 2013 which kickstarted a civil war just two years after independence from Sudan.

What is left to be seen is whether the Sudanese leaders will make peace to not only honour the pope's plea to them, but also to help cease the loss of precious lives through a civil war that has been ongoing for years.

"There will be struggles, disagreements among you but keep them within you, inside the office, so to speak", Francis added during the meeting. A peace deal last August has reduced but not stopped the fighting.

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After the retreat, the pope kissed the South Sudanese leaders' feet, saying: "Your people is awaiting your return to your country, the reconciliation of all its members, and a new era of peace and prosperity for all".

"We Christians believe and know that peace is possible, for Christ is risen. However, there will be little expectation that it will yield any real progress absent external pressure or an unforeseen change", Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the U.N. Security Council Panel of Experts for South Sudan, told Reuters.

In Sudan, Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced the end of Bashir's rule saying the country would enter a two-year period of military rule to be followed by presidential elections. "But in front of the people, hold hands united".

"By your gift, Father, may the whole-hearted search for peace resolve disputes, may love conquer hatred and may revenge be disarmed by forgiveness, so that, relying exclusively on your mercy, we may find our way back to you", he prayed.

"Peace is the first gift that the Lord brought us, and the first commitment that leaders of nations must pursue".

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