Relics of Two South Sudanese Nuns Introduced in Altar of New African Martyrs in Rome

Relics of Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba Luate were solemnly introduced in the altar of the new African martyrs in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on 23 May 2022. Credit:

The relics of two South Sudanese Catholic Sisters who were among five people killed following a road ambush in August 2021 have been placed in the sanctuary of the new African martyrs in a church in Rome.

The relics of Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba Luate were solemnly introduced in the altar of the new African martyrs in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Monday, May 23.

Credit: Sant'Egidio Community

In his homily during the celebration, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life described the two members of the Sacred Heart Sisters (SHS) as “disciples of Jesus who gave their lives for the Lord and for their sisters and brothers.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia highlighted the relics that were being placed in the altar. He said, “We find ourselves together in this Basilica of St. Bartholomew's which St. John Paul II wished to be dedicated to the New Martyrs. And we welcome the robes and sandals of Sister Regina and Sister Mary, killed in South Sudan on 16 August 2021.”


Archbishop Paglia added, “With this prayer, we remember the hour of their testimony, as we heard from the Gospel of John. Two disciples of Jesus gave their lives for the Lord and for their sisters and brothers. Sister Regina and Sister Mary join the number of witnesses and their relics that enrich this Basilica.”

Sr. Mary Daniel Abut (left) and Sr. Regina Roba (right) killed in a road ambush along the Juba-Nimule highway that links South Sudan and Uganda on 16 August 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

“This prayer reinforces our common commitment to peace. For us and for those who will visit it from now on, they are a testimony that edifies – not only figuratively, but in a real sense – so that we may grow in love for the Gospel with that generosity that distinguishes those who have borne witness to the point of blood to fidelity to the Gospel,” the Italian Archbishop said during the May 23 celebration.

“We could say that the testimony of Sister Regina and Sister Mary exhorts us to continue walking - indeed running - on the road of communicating the Gospel,” he added about the two late South Sudanese members of SHS, the Religious Institute that was founded by the Comboni Missionary, Bishop Sixtus Mazzoldi, in March 1954.

The Basilica that is dedicated to the new martyrs “reminds us that the Gospel must be lived with that dimension of 'heroicity' proper to Jesus,” the 77-year-old Archbishop said about the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island that is devoted to the Christian martyrs of the 20th century, which has been described as the bloodiest century in the history of the Catholic Church.

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Credit: Sant'Egidio Community

“In this time - so radically marked by individualism - there is a need for the witness of a Gospel without additions, radical,” Archbishop Paglia said.

The 77-year-old Archbishop who has been serving as President of the Pontifical Academy for Life since August 2016 urged Christians to “be witnesses of this Spirit: a gratuitous love that impels one to freely give one's life for the salvation of all.”

“This is why the 'world' - or rather the prince of this world - does not want peace. And it cannot but hate the disciples of Jesus who are its witnesses,” Archbishop Paglia added.

Credit: Sant'Egidio Community


Last year, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese eulogized the two slain South Sudanese Nuns as “our martyrs who will remain in our memories”.

“Sister Mary Daniel Abut and Sister Regina Roba Luate are our martyrs because they were killed in cold blood. These are our martyrs who will remain in our memories so that we can uplift the faith that God has given to us,” Archbishop Ameyu said in his homily during the Funeral Mass of the two SHS members on 20 August 2021.

Also addressing the faithful during the Funeral Mass, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe said the leadership of the Church would not accept intimidation and cautioned those operating in “bushes” against targeting Church members.

Credit: Sant'Egidio Community

President Salva Kiir also  condemned the act with the strongest terms possible, and added that the murder of the “innocent civilians” lay squarely on the Holdout Groups.

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“The fact that Sisters Mary Abud and Regina Roba were coming from the celebration of an important milestone of Christianity in our country: the centenary celebration of the (Assumption of Our Lady) Loa Parish did (not) matter to these criminals,” President Kiir said in a statement that was dated 17 August 2021.

In his May 23 homily at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew in Rome, Archbishop Paglia expressed gratitude to SHS Superior General, Sr. Alice Jurugo Drajea, and all members of the Juba-headquartered Congregation for the “precious gift that reminds us of the martyrdom of these two African Sisters of theirs.”

“Their testimony makes us thoughtful in the face of the violence they suffered. Both Sister Mary, who also served as Superior General of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and Sister Regina, who was administrator of the Catholic Health Training Institute in the diocese of Wau, had lived in the midst of war since childhood,” he said.

Credit: Vatican Media

The two slain Catholic Sisters, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life added, “knew well what it meant to have to hide, to flee with one's family, to seek refuge.”

“Both of them - faithful to the Gospel - had chosen to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to their brothers, joining the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, which is particularly committed to the education of women, especially young girls, as we know they are among the first victims of every conflict,” he said.

The two South Sudanese Catholic Nuns, Archbishop Paglia continued, “had faced difficult challenges on other occasions. Sister Mary, had testified publicly on several occasions that it was only through the Lord's help that she had been able to face the serious problems that that responsibility presented to her.”

Credit: Courtesy Photo

“Sister Mary and Sister Regina have given their witness; they have given their lives for the Gospel in their country, so that their blood may be a seed of peace and faith in the Lord Jesus, so that the time may soon come for the liberation of the people of South Sudan from all hatred and violence,” the Italian Archbishop said May 23.

Making reference to South Sudan, he regretted the fact that “the prince of evil does not cease to sow hatred between the different populations that make up this country, between people and people, ethnic group and ethnic group, between pastoralists and farmers, members of different political formations and militias.”

Archbishop Paglia acknowledged with appreciation the contribution of the Rome-based lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio Community, in facilitating cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access in South Sudan.

“For years, the Community of Sant'Egidio has had South Sudan and the whole of Africa at heart,” he said about the Catholic association that is dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts.

Credit: Vatican Media

Addressing himself to SHS members, Archbishop Paglia said, “Your Congregation, dear Sisters, continues to witness to the power of the Gospel of peace: for a long time, during the years of the war of independence, you suffered expulsions by the authorities in Khartoum, but this did not prevent you from growing and maturing in South Sudan and also in Uganda.”

“The testimony of the two Sisters also speaks in the heart of the Church of the Pope and together with the many martyrs we see gathered in the icon on the altar, they will accompany him on his next trip to Africa so that it may be full of fruits of love and peace,” he said.

May the witness of two South Sudanese Catholic Nuns “propel South Sudan on the path of reconciliation and peace!” the Archbishop who previously served as the Local Ordinary of Italy’s Terni-Narni-Amelia Diocese implored.

“And may the visit that Pope Francis is about to make be a blessing for South Sudan and for the entire African continent, so dear to us all,” he further implored.

Credit: Sant'Egidio Community

Pope Francis is expected to arrive in South Sudan on July 5 in his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on July 2. The Holy Father is to undertake the South Sudan trip alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace.

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

The July 2-7 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan is to mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa. The journey will be the third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

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