Pope’s Envisioned Visit to South Sudan Heightens Expectations for Swift Peace Process

A Combonian missionary nun living in Wau, South Sudan, believes the upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the youngest country in the world, scheduled for 5-7 July, could have an historic effect on the peace process. Credit: ACN

Pope Francis is scheduled to be in South Sudan in July, an Ecumenical visit that has raised expectations for a swifter peace process in the embattled African country.

A member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) serving in South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Wau has told Catholic Pontifical charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, that the planned visit by Pope Francis to the youngest country in the world, scheduled for 5-7 July, could have an historic effect on the country’s peace process.

In a report that ACN International shared with ACI Africa on Wednesday, May 18, Sr. Beta Almendra says, “The Pope will play a very, very important role. The Pope, the Christian churches and all the local Christian leaders, we all have a very important role to play at this moment in the history of South Sudan.”

Sr. Almendra adds, “My expectation for this trip is that people will understand that peace is possible, that peace is something good, that it is the only way to develop this country, for schools and hospitals to keep functioning, for the South Sudanese people to grow as teachers, doctors, pilots, engineers, and that they might be able to care for their own country, in peace”.

Credit: ACN


In the report, the native of Portugal who arrived in Wau Diocese in early 2021 after serving in neighboring Kenya for six years says that there is a huge expectation regarding the Pope’s visit, compounded by all Pope Francis has already done to bring an end to civil war in South Sudan.

She says that in South Sudan, many people have only known violence their entire lives, adding, “There are generations that were born into war. And the last war was terrible, so much was destroyed.”

In her attempt to describe the extent of damage in South Sudan owing to violence, the 52-year-old Comboni missionary says, “Schools, infrastructure, hospitals, churches, lives, many women and children, and there was also an attempt to eliminate people with a certain education, people who could become future leaders.”

Credit: ACN

ACN International notes that in April 2019 Pope Francis stunned the world when he bent down to kiss the feet of President Salva Kiir and his designated Vice-presidents Riek Machar, who were taking part in a spiritual retreat in the Vatican.

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The Pontifical charity foundation that reaches out to the people of God in embattled countries says that the Holy Father’s gesture is still remembered in South Sudan today, but that “peace, however, remains fragile.”

In the report, Sr.  Almendra highlights a recent “period of high tension” in the East-Central African nation, to which a church leader in the country responded by challenging the warrying leaders to recall Pope Francis’ love gesture. 

She says, “One of our church leaders went to the president and vice-president and asked them, ‘Don’t you remember what the Pope did to you? You said publicly that it had changed your lives, that there would be no more war in South Sudan’”.

“It was that memory, that gesture, that led these leaders to reach a new deal, to dialogue once more, to take one more step towards lasting peace,” the Portuguese Nun says.

The Pope’s visit in July comes at a very important time for the country, with elections scheduled for December. At the moment, however, all attention is focused on the Holy Father and making sure the trip runs smoothly, ACN International has reported.


Credit: ACN

Sr. Almendra has told the charity foundation that in order to see the Pope, she will have to get to the capital city of South Sudan, Juba, an “expensive, and dangerous” trip, but one which she will “gladly undertake”.

The Catholic Nun says that the Holy Father’s visit is also bound to highlight the difficulties of the local church, the basic needs of the population, and the urgent aid required by many sectors of society.

“The Church in South Sudan is very dependent on external help,” she says, and adds, “Speaking of the Diocese of Wau, everything needs to be built: seminaries, diocesan houses, convents, schools, hospitals. It’s a question of investing in structures that existed but were destroyed. We really do depend completely on the outside.”

The Holy Father is to realize the South Sudan trip along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace.

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If realized, Pope Francis will become the first Pope to visit South Sudan, which became the world’s newest nation after gaining independence from the Republic of the Sudan on 9 July 2011.

Credit: ACN

Earlier this month, the 85-year-old Pope started using a wheelchair in public due to a torn ligament in his right knee. The knee pain has seen him cancel some of his engagements. 

In the report ACN International shared with ACI Africa May 18, Sr. Almendra says that the church in South Sudan counts on the help of the Pontifical charity foundation and its benefactors, adding, “We are counting on you!”

ACN International has been supporting South Sudan since 2015, funding the construction or reconstruction of churches and pastoral centers, the formation of Seminarians and living expenses for Priests and women and men Religious.

The foundation is helping to build a Priests’ residence in the premises of St. Mary’s Cathedral of Wau Diocese. 

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