The Vatican has announced that it has put on hold the planned visit of Pope Francis to war-torn South Sudan.
Greg Burke, the spokesperson for the Vatican was quoted saying the planned trip “was not for this year”, but did not hint on any future schedule.
The Roman Catholic Church head earlier expressed willingness to visit South Sudan to preach peace, but no time frame was given.
South Sudan descended into civil war in mid-December 2013 when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to an outbreak of violence, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing millions, both internally as well as externally.
The warring parties have targeted civilians during the civil war, rights groups say.
Church leaders in the world’s youngest East African nation said they had expected the pope would visit the capital, Juba, probably in October, but the Vatican had never announced the trip officially.
Burke did not, however, give reasons for the cancellation of the Pope’s planned visit, although sources within the Vatican cited insecurity.
The trip was to have lasted only one day and the pope was to have flown in after spending a night in another African country.
It also emerged that the head of the Catholic Church said he wanted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to accompany him to South Sudan.
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the Catholic Church was the largest single Christian body in Sudan since 1995, with 2.7 million Catholics mainly concentrated in South Sudan.