“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.”
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.