Pope Francis starts 'pilgrimage of peace' in S. Sudan

STORY: Pope Francis arrived in South Sudan on Friday (February 3) for an unprecedented "pilgrimage of peace".

The head of the Catholic Church will be joined by his Anglican and Scottish Presbyterian counterparts in a country struggling with war, poverty, and floods.

The violence was underscored on the eve of the pontiff's arrival.

Twenty-seven people were killed in the central Equatoria state in tit-for-tat bloodshed between herders and a local militia group.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is accompanying the Pope and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields to South Sudan, said he was horrified by the latest killings.

"It is a story too often heard across South Sudan", he wrote on Twitter.

The three leaders represent the main religious traditions in predominantly Christian South Sudan.

The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but civil war erupted in 2013.

Despite a peace deal in 2018, violence and hunger are still rife.

In one of the most remarkable gestures of his papacy, Francis knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan's previously warring leaders during a meeting at the Vatican in April 2019 - urging them not to return to civil war.

During this visit the Pope will meet with internally displaced people and will celebrate Mass on Sunday (February 5) before returning to Rome.