In a dramatic gesture, Pope Francis got down on his hands and knees while asking for two warring leaders of South Sudan to maintain peace.

The pope was hosting South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar, whose rivalry is at the root of the civil war in the country, at a spiritual retreat in a bid to end the violence. He bent down to kiss the feet of the two leaders and several other people and urged them not to restart a civil war.

“I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace,” Pope Francis said, according to Reuters. “I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems.”

His appeal comes amidst growing concern that the recent change of guard in neighbouring Sudan may affect the peace deal that put an end to South Sudan’s five-year long civil war.