Pope still hopes to visit South Sudan to promote peace

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit meets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit meets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis exchange gifts with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Pho

Pope Francis exchange gifts with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Pho

Pope Francis exchange gifts with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Pho

Pope Francis exchange gifts with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Pho

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis meets South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit during a private audience at the Vatican, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra

Pope Francis, flanked at left, by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit poses with members of the delegation at the end of their private audience

Pope Francis, flanked at left, by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit poses with members of the delegation at the end of their private audience

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has met with the president of South Sudan and told him that he still hopes to visit the country "as a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process."

Francis met with President Salva Kiir in the Apostolic Palace on Saturday. Later, the president met with the Vatican secretary of state and foreign minister.

The Vatican said the talks focused on the country's peace process, the return of refugees and future development.

Francis had wanted to visit South Sudan in 2017 with the archbishop of Canterbury, but security conditions interfered.

Meeting with Kiir, Francis "expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan, as a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process."