Pope Francis blesses President of South Sudan Salva Kiir during a holy mass at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, on Sunday. Pope Francis is on a three-day visit to South Sudan to promote peace and reconciliation in the world's youngest country, riven by the scars of civil war and extreme poverty. Photo by Vatican Media/EPA-EFE
Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Pope Francis ended his six-day trip to Africa on Sunday by delivering mass to an estimated 100,000 people gathered in the South Sudan city of Juba as he urged for peace in the country.
Francis, who spent last week in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, departed from Juba's International Airport on his papal plane around 11:56 a.m. to return to Rome, according to Vatican News -- the news agency operated by the Holy See.
The pope in his message to those gathered in Juba urged for peace in South Sudan "and in the entire African continent, where so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith experience persecution and danger, where great numbers of people suffer from conflict exploitation, exploitation, and poverty."
Francis also urged people in the country to reject what he called the "venom of hatred" while telling the country's leaders to focus on ending conflict, the BBC reported.
Sudan, which once also included South Sudan, was essentially governed by British colonial rule via a governor-general appointed by Egypt until 1956.
British colonial forces largely maintained a policy of treating the northern and southern parts of the country as two separate territories, focusing on developing the Arab northern region while neglecting the southern region.
As a result of the colonial rule and its new independence, Sudan suffered through a couple of coups and civil war over the next 20 years between the country's north and south regions. That civil war ended with the establishment of South Sudan as an autonomous region of Sudan.
Eventually, control of the country was seized by dictator Omar al-Bashir in another military coup in 1989 amid a second civil war in Sudan which began in the southern region.
Al-Bashir suspended political parties in the country and introduced an Islamic legal code at the federal level while imprisoning political opposition and journalists.
The second civil war ended in 2005 but South Sudan ultimately gained its independence from Sudan and became a sovereign nation in 2011 after a referendum.
South Sudan was plagued with its own civil war from 2013 to 2020 after a fallout between the country's president and his then-vice president.
The pope ended his message to South Sudan with encouragement to "never lose hope and lose no opportunity to build peace," a similar message he delivered to the Democratic Republic of Congo which has endured its own conflicts in past decades.