Pope Francis has concluded his trip to the African nation of South Sudan imploring locals to seek peace after years of conflict.
The 86 year old pontiff has been in the country for the past two days, marking the first time an overseas religious leader has visited the world’s newest nation.
He presided at a Mass on the grounds of a mausoleum for South Sudan’s liberation hero John Garang, who died in a helicopter crash in 2005 before the predominantly Christian country gained independence from Muslim majority Sudan in 2011.
The Pope wove his homily around the themes that have dominated his trip to the world’s newest nation – reconciliation and mutual forgiveness for past wrongs.
He called on the crowd to make themselves immune to the “venom of hatred” to achieve the peace and prosperity that have eluded them through years of conflicts.
His speech was witnessed by around 70,000 people, who sang and drummed as he arrived.
During his trip he also addressed Catholic bishops, priests and nuns in the Cathedral of St Therese in the capital Juba
He told the church leaders, they “cannot remain neutral” and must raise their voices against injustice and abuse of power.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in 2013 with ethnic groups turning on each other.
Despite a 2018 peace deal between the two main antagonists, bouts of inter-ethnic fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians.