Thu, 07 Dec 2023

Irish nun walks for nine days to see Pope Francis in South Sudan

Khalid Umar Malik
04 Feb 2023, 02:09 GMT+10

JUBA, South Sudan - Sr Orla Treacy, originally from Bray, Co Wicklow, was part of a group of 60 young pilgrims and spiritual leaders who walked most of the 400km journey from Rumbek, the central town, to Juba, the capital, in nine days.

The Loreto sister runs a boarding school in Rumbek, and her work to empower young women and girls has earned her international acclaim.

"Most of the young people walking with us have never left the county," she explained. So there was a lot of fear about crossing the state line into a state where they had grown up believing the people were their enemies.

"The people on the streets, on the other hand, welcomed us with goats and bulls, which was the warmest welcome we could receive in the community. We shared a meal and prayed together, and I believe everyone went to bed thinking, 'you mean these people are the same as us?'"

Pope Francis is the first pope to visit South Sudan since the predominantly Christian country split from Muslim-majority Sudan in 2011.

Its history since independence has been marred by a five-year civil war that has killed 380,000 people and left much of the country in ruins.

Sr. Treacy stated: "You'd walk down the street and see young men with guns everywhere. There was also a culture of vengeance. A culture in which if you kill someone in my family, someone in your family will be killed. During those years, it spiraled dramatically."

Many South Sudanese people have traveled to Juba to hear Pope Francis' message of reconciliation.

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