“To intercede is thus to come down and place ourselves in the midst of our people, to act as a bridge that connects them to God,” Francis added.
Pope Francis said stepping into the midst of God’s people is something the Church’s pastors need to cultivate.
We need to have “the ability to step into the middle of their sufferings and tears, into the middle of their hunger for God and their thirst for love,” he said. “Our first duty is not to be a Church that is perfectly organized, but a Church that, in the name of Christ, stands in the midst of people’s troubled lives, a Church that is willing to dirty its hands for people.”
He thanked those present for their dedication to the Church, and for their courage, sacrifices, and patience.
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“I pray that you will always be generous pastors and witnesses, armed only with prayer and love; that you allow yourselves, in meekness, to be constantly surprised by God’s grace; and that you may become a means of salvation for others, prophets of closeness who accompany the people, intercessors with uplifted arms,” he said.
People outside St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba, South Sudan for Pope Francis' meeting with bishops, priests, and religious on Feb. 4, 2023. Gianluca Teseo/CNA
On Feb. 4, Pope Francis will also meet South Sudanese refugees, people who have been internally displaced due to the war, before leading an ecumenical prayer service.
On his final day on Feb. 5, the pope will celebrate Sunday Mass in English at the John Garang Mausoleum. He will then lead the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, before flying back to Rome.
Pope Francis arrived in South Sudan after almost four days in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.