Planned Papal Pastoral Visit to South Sudan “a hope for peace”: Catholic Missionary Nun

Sr Balatti with catechists and other church members in Kaka, on the River Nile, March 2022.

A Catholic Missionary Nun serving in South Sudan has said that the planned pastoral visit of Pope Francis to the country in July denotes hope for peace in the East-Central African nation.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit South Sudan in his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on July 2.

In a Tuesday, March 22 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Elena Balatti highlighted the importance of the planned Papal pastoral visit to the world’s youngest country that has experienced violent conflict since December 2013.

The member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) also shared her reflections about efforts towards peacebuilding in the country that gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.

“The visit of the Pope is a hope for peace. I believe that all of us in the world today will understand how much the whole world needs peace, not just South Sudan. South Sudan is directly in need of peace,” Sr. Balatti said. 


“I believe he (Pope Francis) wants to come and still encourage people, strengthen their hope. This will be an opportunity for him to see the people,” the Italian-born Nun who coordinates the department of Integral Human Development (Caritas) in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese added.

Rather than being an abrupt visit, she said, the planned Papal trip is a follow up on the revitalized peace agreement signed in 2018 considering that the Holy Father has been keen on the peace process in the East-Central African nation over the years.

Sr. Ballati expressed the enthusiasm of the people of God in South Sudan ahead of the Papal visit saying, “I believe hundreds of thousands of people will flow to the capital; there are those who are already here and I hope others will join to receive the Pope.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Juba from DRC on July 5 and return to the Vatican on July 7. The pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark his third visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and the first ever Papal visit to South Sudan. 

In the March 22 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Balatti also reflected on challenges to the peace process in South Sudan saying, “There are pockets of violence in different parts of the country which seem to occur from time to time.” 

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Some of the clashes are “deadly,” the Comboni Sister said, and added, “There is need for efforts to find out the causes of the conflicts and the grievances of the groups involved.”

She expressed optimism that the pastoral visit of the Holy Father will have a positive impact on the situation of conflict in the country.

She said in reference to the prospects for peace in South Sudan ahead of the planned Papal visit, “We hope and pray that it will be the case because peace is first of all a decision that comes from the heart, and the mind.”

“At the political level, peace is based on national interests and a strengthening of the understanding that when you want to talk about interests, peace is more convenient than war,” the CMS member who started her missionary service in Sudan in 1994 told ACI Africa March 22.

She went on to express the hope that the Holy Father will emphasize the need for unity amid ethnic diversity.


“I wish the Holy Father to talk about unity, the human family which is already an important message all over the world. In South Sudan… there is a lot to do to have national unity because of different ethnic groups,” Sr. Balatti said.

“There is need for the different ethnic groups in South Sudan to look at themselves only as a family despite the differences in diversity,” she reiterated, and added, “I hope the Pope will help the people in South Sudan not only to see themselves not just as a family, but members of the larger community of the world.”

The Coordinator of Caritas Malakal also shared her thoughts about on ongoing Synod on Synodality. She described the initiative as “a great opportunity” for the people of God in the world’s youngest nation to grow in togetherness and to foster family values.

“Since last year, the Pope has launched the Synod on Synodality; it is a great opportunity for us; I would really like that the Church in South Sudan, all of us in South Sudan, take full advantage of it because this message on Synodality is another way of looking at ourselves as a church that leaves on fraternity, where everybody listens to everybody,” Sr. Ballati told ACI Africa March 22.

She added, “This process of the Synod gives a possibility to the different groups and then members of the church to give their opinions, so this is so important.”

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The Comboni Sister expressed the hope that the Papal “visit will help us to grow together in fraternity, to be one family.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.