Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace today, for those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Source: Catholic News Agency/EWTN.

The pontiff made the call earlier this month, during his February 4 Angelus address.

“Facing the tragic continuation of conflicts in different parts of the world, I invite all the faithful to a special day of prayer and fasting for peace February 23, the Friday of the first week of Lent,” he said.

Pope Francis asked that the day be offered specifically for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan and invited both non-Catholics and non-Christians to join “in the ways they deem most appropriate”.

“Our heavenly Father always listens to his children who cry out to him in pain and anguish,” he said, and made a “heartfelt appeal” for each one of us to “hear this cry and, each one according to their own conscience, before God, ask ourselves: ‘What can I do to make peace?’”

The Pope’s appeal comes just months after a November 23 prayer vigil for peace in the two countries.

With plans to visit South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year thwarted by ongoing conflict, Pope Francis organised the prayer vigil in order to pray for an end to war in the two countries and to ask for comfort for victims of the violence.

South Sudan has been in the middle of a brutal civil war for the past three-and-a-half years, which has divided the young country between those loyal to its President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Reik Machar. The conflict has also bred various divisions of militia and opposition groups.

Since the beginning of the war, some 4 million citizens have fled the violence-stricken country in hopes of finding peace, food and work. For those who remain, many internally displaced persons have sought refuge in churches for protection from violence.

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