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Pope kneels, kisses feet of President of South Sudan, pleads that peace stays

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Pope Francis in an unprecedented gesture kissed the feet of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar and pleaded with the leaders of Sudan to ensure that peace stays in the country.

He was meeting the Sudanese leaders during a spiritual retreat in Vatican. He made a fervent appeal to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to honour the armistice they inked and commit to forming a unity government next month.

82 year old Pope Francis who traditionally holds a ritual washing of the feet with prisoners on Holy Thursday has never displayed such a show of deference to political leaders.

Speaking at the event, Pope Francis said:

"I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward.

There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems.

I express my heartfelt hope that hostilities will finally cease, that the armistice will be respected, that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted, and that there will be a lasting peace for the common good of all those citizens who dream of beginning to build the nation.

Dear brothers and sisters! Jesus is also gazing, here and now, upon each one of us. He looks at us with love, he asks something, he forgives something, and he gives us a mission. He has put great trust in us by choosing us to be his co-workers in the creation of a more just world.

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 solely on your mercy, we may find our way back to you.

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

Peace is the fundamental condition for ensuring the rights of each individual and the integral development of an entire people.

May God touch with the power of the Spirit the depths of every human heart, so that enemies will be open to dialogue, adversaries will join hands and peoples will meet in harmony.”

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