ROME — Pope Francis says he may add a South Sudan leg onto his Africa trip in September if conditions there are “mature.”
Francis told a visiting nun from Juba on Friday he wants to go to South Sudan as part of his trip but can’t promise.
He planned to visit South Sudan with the archbishop of Canterbury in 2017, but security conditions prevented it. Recently, Francis hosted the South Sudanese president and opposition leader for a spiritual retreat at the Vatican, where he kissed their feet in pleading for them to make peace.
Francis is to visit Madagascar, Mauritius and Mozambique Sept. 4-10.
He told the nun he might have time to stop in South Sudan, “and when I say time, it’s not about the time on the clock. It’s whether the time is mature to go there.”
Earlier this week, Ethiopia announced regional ministers have approved a six-month extension of the looming deadline for South Sudan’s rival leaders to form a unity government.
Ethiopia’s government announced the approval in a Facebook post on Wednesday after a meeting of the council of East African ministers.
South Sudan had faced a May 12 deadline for opposition leader Riek Machar to return to the country and once again become President Salva Kiir’s deputy. It is the crucial next step in a fragile peace deal to end a five-year civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people.
Both South Sudan’s government and Machar’s opposition requested the six-month extension last week.
The committee overseeing the peace deal’s implementation says key elements have yet to be put in place.