Planned Papal Encounter with IDPs in South Sudan “sign of solidarity”: Catholic Priest

Fr. Samuel Abe. Credit: ACI Africa

The meeting of the Holy Father with the internally displaced persons (IDPs) when he visits South Sudan next week alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, is a “sign of solidarity” with those suffering, a Catholic Priest involved in the preparations of the visit has told ACI Africa.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Wednesday, January 25, the General Coordinator for the Pope’s Visit to South Sudan said Pope Francis meeting IDPs on Saturday, February 4 will be a source of hope for them.

“The meeting is very important because the Holy Father will be in solidarity with those who are suffering because being in the IDP camp one cannot have a normal life like in their houses,” Fr. Samuel Abe said.

He added, “The Holy Father wants to encourage them and give them some sense of life so that they will value life though they are in a place where somebody is supposed to have a decent and basic condition of living.”

The Holy Father is expected to offer IDPs “encouragement and trust that wherever they are, God and the Church is with them,” the South Sudanese Catholic Priest further said.


On 1 December 2022, officials of the Holy See Press Office confirmed that the previously postponed trip to two-African-nation had been rescheduled.

Like the itinerary in the postponed visit, the January 31 – February 5 two-African-nation trip is to begin in the capital city of DRC, Kinshasa, and conclude in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, where the Holy Father alongside Archbishop Welby and Rev. Greenshields are to preside over ecumenical prayer.

In his first leg of the two-African-nation trip in Kinshasa, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with the country’s authorities, victims of the conflict in the Eastern part of the country and representatives of charitable organizations, celebrate Holy Mass, meet with young people, Catholic Bishops, and Jesuits in DRC before heading to South Sudan.

In the January 25 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Abe said, “There will be about two thousand IDPs from Upper Nile, Unity, and Jonglei States who will meet the Holy Father at Freedom Hall in Juba.”

“Since Freedom Hall is very small it’s estimated to take about two thousand internally displaced persons with Juba having the biggest number,” he said.

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The other IDPs, the General Coordinator for the Pope’s visit added, “will be from the surrounding areas, such as Bentiu, Malakal, and Bor and we will have refugees from Sudan who are residing in Leer that we are giving them the chance to meet the Holy Father.”

“We are arranging to airlift the IDPs from the camps across the country with the support of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and Samaritan,” Fr. Abe told ACI Africa.

During the meeting of the Holy Father and the IDPs, Fr. Abe said, “There will be three children who will give their testimonies and experiences of living in the IDP camp and the Pope will give them his encouraging words and blessing.”

“The message from the Holy Father to the IPs will be transmitted with screens in all the IDP camps at different places,” he told ACI Africa.

When realized, the January 31- February 5 pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa. 


The journey will be the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan and the third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

Patrick Juma Wani is a South Sudanese journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. Patrick holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD) in Uganda. He has over 7 years of extensive experience in leading the development and implementation of media, advocacy, communication and multimedia strategy and operations, with an excellent track record of editorial leadership, budget management, and stakeholder outreach. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.