Advertisement

“Accelerate preparations”: Vatican Official in South Sudan on Papal Ecumenical Visit

Mons. Ionuţ Paul Strejac. Credit: ARCB

There are positive “signs” that Pope Francis will realize the postponed ecumenical trip to South Sudan, the Chargé d'Affaires of the Vatican Nunciature in the East-Central African nation has said, and underscored the need to “accelerate preparations”.

Addressing members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) at the end of their Plenary Assembly in Khartoum, Sudan, Mons. Ionuţ Paul Strejac made reference to the conversation Pope Francis had with reporters on the flight from Rome to Kazakhstan on September 13.

The Holy Father said he was in contact with the head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rev. Iain Greenshields, in view of realizing their ecumenical trip that had been scheduled to take place last July.

“We need to press the bottom to accelerate preparations because we have seen signs of the Holy Father coming to visit,” Mons. Strejac said on Tuesday, October 25.

He added, “I think we have to take it seriously and restart all the mechanisms of the visit because from the information we have, it’s getting close and there is a big probability that this might happen sometime in February,” 

Advertisement

As soon as the Vatican confirms the date of the visit, the Chargé d'Affaires of the Vatican Nunciature in South Sudan said, “we shall communicate to the people of South Sudan because it is something they have been waiting for.”

The Vatican official called upon SCBC members “to continue praying for the Pope’s visit and engage Christians especially in prayer for the Holy Father to make his plan a reality.”

“I think it’s important to continue praying for the visit of the Holy Father,” Mons. Strejac told Catholic Bishops in Sudan and South Sudan on October 25. 

He added, “We also need to do all other preparations at different levels in the Parishes, and Dioceses so that the whole country is prepared to welcome the Holy Father even if they will not all come to Juba.” 

On September 20, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese said that the Papal ecumenical visit was awaiting the Holy See’s “official announcement”.

More in Africa

In an interview with Radio Bakhita, Archbishop Ameyu said that the Catholic Church in South Sudan was already making preparations while awaiting the official announcement from Rome. 

“The Holy Father recently stated that he would still like to visit South Sudan and suggested the month of February,” the Archbishop of South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See told Radio Bakhita.

On June 10, Matteo Bruni, the Holy See Press Office Director, announced the postponement “with regret” of the Holy Father’s third  trip to Africa.

“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, planned for 2 to 7 July, to a later date to be determined,” Mr. Bruni said.

Pope Francis suffers from a torn ligament in his right knee, a condition that has limited his ability to walk. On May 19, he used a wheelchair during a public meeting, the first time he had done so publicly since leaving the hospital after colon surgery in July 2021.

Advertisement

In the program that the Holy See published on May 28, Pope Francis’ 37th Apostolic Visit abroad was to begin in the capital city of DRC, Kinshasa on July 2, and conclude on July 7 in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.

On June 12, Pope Francis said he was praying to reschedule the Apostolic trip to DRC and the ecumenical visit to South Sudan “as soon as possible”.

On July 2, the day he was previously scheduled to arrive in South Sudan, Pope Francis sent a video message urging the people of God in DRC and South Sudan not to let themselves “be robbed of hope” despite his decision to postpone his pastoral trip to the two African nations.

On July 5, Archbishop Welby and Greenshields assured the people of God in South Sudan that their ecumenical pilgrimage that was postponed would be realized.