Pope Francis urges end of 'blind fury' in S. Sudan

STORY: Pope Francis urged the people of South Sudan to 'never lose hope' as he wrapped up his peace mission on Sunday (February 5).

Speaking at Mass, the pontiff also urged them to seize every opportunity to build a peace that has eluded the country for years.

South Sudan won independence in 2011 but civil war broke out two years later.

400,000 people were killed.

Despite a peace deal in 2018, sporadic bouts of fighting continue to kill and displace civilians.

On the grounds of the mausoleum of liberation hero John Garang, the Pope thanked a crowd of 70,000 who he described as the "salt of the earth".

"Salt is a tiny ingredient and, once placed on food, it disappears, it dissolves; yet precisely in that way it seasons the whole dish. In the same way, even though we are tiny and frail, even when our strength seems paltry before the magnitude of our problems and the blind fury of violence, we Christians are able to make a decisive contribution to changing history."

Residents in Juba had queued from early in the morning to take part in the Mass.

Some, like Jovana Buyom, had spent the night.

"I was reflecting over the life that all South Sudanese have gone through and I hope that the visit of Pope has brought to us an everlasting peace."

Extreme poverty and hunger are rife in South Sudan and two third of the 11.6 million population need humanitarian assistance.

That's as a result of conflict as well as three years of catastrophic floods.

4.5 million are internally displaced or have fled the country as refugees, according to the United Nations.

At the end of his trip Pope Francis also appealed for an end to the tribalism, financial wrongdoing and political cronyism at the root of many of the country's problems.

South Sudan has some of the largest crude oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa.

But that has not translated into widespread prosperity.

A U.N. report in 2021 said the country's leaders had diverted "staggering amounts of money and wealth" from public coffers and resources.

The government dismissed the report and has denied accusations of widespread corruption.