I’m Responding “to Holy Father’s request; I ask for prayers”: South Sudanese Bishop-Elect

Fr. Matthew Remijio Adam Gbitiku, appointed Bishop of South Sudan's Wau Diocese by Pope Francis on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.

The Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Wau Diocese has welcomed his appointment, describing it as a positive response to the “Holy Father’s request.”

In an interview with ACI Africa shortly after his appointment was announced Wednesday, November 18, Fr. Matthew Remijio Adam Gbitiku, a member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) asked for prayers as he prepares for the new ministry in his native Diocese.

“As a Comboni Missionary, becoming a Bishop is not one of our priorities and such news was very far from my imagination. We work for the development of the people where they are, bringing them up to the faith,” the Bishop-elect told ACI Africa.

He said that it is a positive response to the Papal request because as Priests, “we are bound to respond to the Holy Father’s requests. You cannot say no to the Holy Father.”

Fr. Matthew’s appointment was made public at St. Mary’s Cathedral of Wau Diocese on November 18 at 2 p.m. East African time (noon Rome time), and published by the Holy See Press Office.

“I would like to tell you that we have a white envelope sent to you the people of Wau and when I came the other week here, I didn’t cheat you that I am only John the Baptist,” the Apostolic Administrator of Wau, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu told the congregation that gathered at the Cathedral.

“Today, in the Catholic Diocese of Wau, we have great news sent to us on behalf of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Bert Van Megan,” Archbishop Ameyu announced.

Reading the message signed by Chargé d’Affaire at the Juba-based South Sudan Nunciature, Mons. Mark Kadima, the South Sudanese Archbishop announced the appointment saying, “I wish to inform you that the Holy Father, Pope Francis has today on the 18th of November 2020, appointed Rev. Father Mathew Remijio Adam as the new Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wau in South Sudan.”

“It is an appointment that is going to put me in direct contact with the local Church, giving me an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the people of God. I look forward to everyone’s contribution,” the Bishop-elect told ACI Africa during the November 18 interview.

He added, “Being called to work for the local church is going to be a real pastoral task. There are certainly going to be challenges and I look forward to facing them through the grace of God.”

“Wau is a diocese that is one of the biggest in South Sudan, which was founded by the Comboni Missionaries. That I am also a Comboni Missionary going to a Diocese inaugurated by the Comboni is a good thing; I’m going to continue what our founders started,” the 48-year-old South Sudanese Cleric told ACI Africa.

The Diocese became vacant 6 March 2017 following the death of Bishop Rudolf Deng aged 76.

“As a native of Wau Diocese where I have been appointed, I am familiar with a good number of Priests and this is an advantage. Some of them were my classmates,” he further said, and added, “This is a good starting point for me, and I look forward to collaborating with them, who are already on the ground.”

Ordained a Deacon exactly 17 years ago in Lima, Peru where he completed his Theology studies at the Comboni Theological College, the Bishop-elect was ordained a Priest in Wau in October 2004 by the immediate former Bishop of the Diocese, the late Rudolf Deng Majak.

The holder of a Master’s degree in Spiritual Theology from the Rome-based Pontifical Gregorian University has held various pastoral responsibilities, including Sudan’s Khartoum Archdiocese Vocations Director (2010-2012), St. Paul’s Major Seminary Spiritual Director (2012-2013), and Vicar General of Khartoum Diocese (2013-2017).

Until his appointment, he has been the Vice-Rector and Bursar of the Nairobi-based International Theologate of the Comboni Missionaries.

“With this appointment, I’m going to give a hand to the people of God, not as a visitor, but as a native,” the Bishop-elect told ACI Africa, adding, “I’m happy that I’m going to contribute, and hope to contribute to the flourishing of the gospel among the people of South Sudan.”

Asked about fears he might be having ahead of his ministry as a Bishop, he said, “The prolonged war in South Sudan and the political situation affects the pastoral work of the Church. This lack of stability is a challenge that causes concerns.”

He explained, “The lack of stability hinders pastoral work. The faithful and their Pastors have experienced the conflict, which affects the way they look at things.”

As a way forward, the Bishop-elect called for spiritual support saying, “I ask everyone to pray for the Diocese of Wau, to pray for me as I prepare to undertake the new mission as a Bishop.”

The Diocese of Wau was erected as the Apostolic Prefecture of Bahr el-Ghazal in May 1913 before Pope Paul VI elevated it to Wau Diocese in 1974.

Located within the Ecclesiastical Province of Juba, the Diocese has a population of 3,081,000 Catholics according to 2017 statistics.

Peter Mapuor, ACI Africa correspondent in South Sudan contributed to this story


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