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Pope Francis appeals for urgent action to help famine-struck South Sudan

A woman carries a sack of food aid after a food-drop in a field in Panyijar county last year (Getty)

Pope Francis is demanding concrete action to get food aid to famine victims in South Sudan, saying words aren’t enough to prevent millions from being condemned to death by hunger.

The Pontiff’s appeal came a day after South Sudan President Salva Kiir promised “unimpeded access” for all aid organisations to reach the hungry. South Sudan has repeatedly promised such access but with little effect.

Pope Francis said: “At this time it’s more necessary than ever for everyone to not just stop with words, but to take concrete action so that food aid can reach suffering populations.”

The UN earlier this week declared a famine in parts of oil-rich Unity state, saying more than 100,000 people are affected and that one million more are on the brink of starvation.

The Pope’s comments came at the end of his weekly general audience.

Catholic News Service reported that the pontiff focused his address on how humanity’s greed and selfishness can turn creation into a sad and desolate world.

Human beings are often tempted to view creation as “a possession we can exploit as we please and for which we do not have to answer to anyone,” the Pope said.

“When carried away by selfishness, human beings end up ruining even the most beautiful things that have been entrusted to them,” the Pope said.

As an early sign of spring, the audience was held in St Peter’s Square for the first time since November. Despite the chilly morning temperatures, the Pope made the rounds in his popemobile, greeting pilgrims and kissing bundled-up infants.

Pope Francis attends a circus performance during his weekly general audience (Getty)

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the Pope reflected on St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which expresses the hope “that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption.”

St Paul, the Pope said, reminds Christians that creation is a “marvelous gift that God has placed in our hands.”

Through this gift, he said, “we can enter into a relationship with him and recognise the imprint of his loving plan, which we are all called to achieve together.”

Sin, however, breaks communion not only with God but with his creation, “thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty,” the Pope said.

“Think about water. Water is a beautiful thing; it is so important. Water gives us life and it helps us in everything. But when minerals are exploited, water is contaminated and creation is destroyed and dirtied. This is just one example; there are many,” he said, departing from his prepared remarks.

When people break their relationship with creation, they not only lose their original beauty, he said, but they also “disfigure everything surrounding them,” causing a reminder of God’s love to become a bleak sign of pride and greed.

St Paul tells believers that hope comes from knowing that God in his mercy wants to heal the “wounded and humbled hearts” of all men and women and, through them, “regenerate a new world and a new humanity, reconciled in his love,” Pope Francis said.

“The Holy Spirit sees beyond the negative appearances for us and reveals to us the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord is preparing for humanity,” the Pope said.

“This is the content of our hope. A Christian does not live outside of the world; he knows how to recognise the signs of evil, selfishness and sin in his own life and in what surrounds him,” he said. “But at the same time, a Christian has learned to read all of this with the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the risen Christ.”