Apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan Says Ecumenical Visit “a celebration” of Christian faith

Archbishop Hubertus van Megen during the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop John Mbinda of Kenya's Lodwar Diocese. Credit: ACI Africa

The representative of the Holy Father in South Sudan has described the scheduled ecumenical visit to the East-Central African nation as “a celebration” of Christian faith.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the consecration of Bishop John Mbinda as the new Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Diocese of Lodwar, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen said the July 5-7 trip that Pope Francis is to undertake alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, is also about peace.

The planned ecumenical visit that is part of the Pope Francis’ his two-African-nation pastoral trip “is not only a message of peace, it is a celebration of the faith,” Archbishop van Megen told ACI Africa during the Saturday, June 4 interview. 

In visiting the world’s youngest nation alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, “it’s like the Christian world is coming together,” the representative of the Holy Father in South Sudan who doubles as the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya said. 

The ecumenical visit, he continued, is a response to the question of how global Christian leaders can “help the people of South Sudan in coming together and (finding) their Christian Spirit.”


The Nairobi-based Archbishop said that the planned three-day ecumenical visit “is also an encouragement to the people of South Sudan who consist of different tribes and ethnic groups, and who are in conflict with each other many times.” 

While South Sudan is a young nation, he said, many of the natives “perceive themselves as members of different tribes, ethnic groups and not yet so much citizens of a country.”

The visit by Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Moderator Wallace is meant to trigger a recognition of the need to have the Christian identity trump all other identities, including that of tribe, the Dutch-born Apostolic Nuncio said.

He explained, “By coming together and saying we are one in Christ, there is where you find your true identity and maybe new identity, an identity that goes beyond your tribal identity, ethnic group, all that may exist and have a value, but over and above them is another identity of being sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and Sisters in Christ and there we find a unity and, in that unity, we can be able to build up this country.”

When the Christian identify trumps other identities, Archbishop van Megen said, “we should see each other as brothers and sisters and not as members of another tribe, clan, and ethnic group, with whom we are in conflict.”

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He further said that the planned ecumenical trip will be a moment for the faithful in South Sudan to look into what it means to be truly followers of Christ.

“South Sudan also likes to define itself a Christian nation. What does that exactly mean? How do we shield that? How do we express that?” He posed, adding that Christianity is professed by confessing the name of Jesus Christ and accommodating everyone. 

Members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) formulated a prayer for the ecumenical trip aimed at helping Catholics prepare spiritually for the July 5-7 visit.

The prayer that starts with the motto of the ecumenical visit to South Sudan, “I pray that all may be one”, also includes intentions for political leaders, invocation of the Holy Spirit upon pastoral agents in Sudan and South Sudan, and the strengthening of “hope and unity among our people”.

In his speech after consecrating Bishop Mbinda at Ekales Cultural Centre in Lodwar, Archbishop van Megen appealed for prayers for peace in South Sudan ahead of the ecumenical visit.


He said, “I would like for you to pray for the people of South Sudan that there will be peace and justice so that this country can finally settle down and these people can go around their business.”

The Papal representative in Kenya and South Sudan said the violence in South Sudan needs to end so that refugees can go back to their families and businesses, and “live a normal life.” 

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.