Political and Christian leaders from South Sudan will gather at the Vatican April 10-11 for a spiritual retreat led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis. Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti called the retreat a “propitious occasion for reflection and prayer.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has spent most of its eight years in a state of civil war. Organizers of this week’s retreat hope it will bring the parties together and aid efforts at reconciliation.

Gisotti said Abp. Justin Welby proposed the retreat. It will meet in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the guest house in Vatican City.

A Lambeth Palace representative said the joint initiative “could be a step on a journey” and expressed hope that it “will build confidence and trust between parties and give them spiritual nourishment.”

The political leaders include President Salva Kiir Mayardit and four of his five designated vice presidents.

Eight members of the South Sudan Council of Church will participate, including John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu (Uganda), and the Most Rev. Justin Badi Arama, Anglican Primate of South Sudan.

Pope Francis will deliver an address April 11 at the gathering’s conclusion.

Participants will receive a Bible — signed by Pope Francis, Abp. Welby, and the Very Rev. John Chalmers, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland — bearing this message: “Seek that which unites. Overcome that which divides.”

Adapted from ACNS

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