“Impressed, really honored”: Pope Francis’ Translator in South Sudan on Gratitude Letter

Fr. John Lo’boko Morris beside Pope Francis following his arrival in Juba on 3 February 2023. Credit: Elias Turk

The Catholic Priest who served as Pope Francis translator during the ecumenical visit to South Sudan has, in an interview with ACI Africa, expressed his elation at having received a letter of gratitude from the Holy Father.

In the letter dated February 7, a couple of day after the Pope Francis completed his three-day Apostolic Journey to the world’s youngest nation, the Holy Father praised Fr. John Lo’boko Morris for demonstrating “courtesy and gentleness” in the task of translating for him.

‘I thank you for your faithful assistance during my recent Apostolic Journey to South Sudan,” Pope Francis said in the letter.

The Holy Father added, “Interpretation is certainly not easy to work, but you did it with courtesy and gentleness, and for this, I am very grateful.”

“Please be assured of my prayers for you and for your intentions. Entrusting you and your priestly ministry to the loving intercessions of Mary, Mother of the Church, I bless you from my heart and ask for your continued prayers for me,” Pope Francis in his letter to the South Sudanese member of the Congregation of Apostles of Jesus Missionaries (AJ).


In the Tuesday, March 21 Interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Lo’boka Morris said that he was honored that Pope Francis would think of writing to him immediately after he left South Sudan, ending his trip to Africa between January 31 and February 5, the Holy Father's third pastoral visit to Sub-Saharan Africa that had started in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“It impressed me a lot that the Holy Father appreciates the work I did for him acknowledging that it’s not very easy to do the translation. I must say that I did it for him by the spirit of dedication,” Fr. Lo’boka Morris said.

He added, “I was really honored and at the same time impressed by the sensibility of the Holy Father that immediately after he left Juba, he sent me an appreciation letter for my work.”

“I am very grateful for his sensibility and the sense of humility to remember the services I gave,” the Juba-based Catholic Priest who serves as the Regional Superior of AJ members in Sudan and South Sudan told ACI Africa.

He added in reference to Pope Francis, “I thought once he has gone he will engage in other things because he has many things to do.”

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Pope Francis’ February 7 letter shows that the Holy Father is a person who does not take anything for granted and appreciates deeply what the people of God in South Sudan rendered to him during his ecumenical visit, Fr. Lo’boka Morris further said.

The holder of a doctoral degree in Islamic Studies shared that he had been asked much earlier by the Nairobi-based Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan to render translation services to the Holy Father during his trip, which was later postponed.

“I accepted and told them I will rise up to this challenge but the visit of the Holy Father was canceled,” he told ACI Africa, and added, “When the Pope announced he was coming, I was reminded about the job of translation I was supposed to do.”

The South Sudanese Catholic Priest who previously served as Lecturer for Islam and Muslim Culture at the Pontifical Beda College and visiting Lecturer at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), both in Rome, said that he had found it deeply gratifying to stay with the Holy Father for a period of three days.

He recalled how challenging the translating task had been at the start, saying, “In the beginning, I was told that I would translate the homily from Italian into Arabic when I didn’t have the text with me.”


“The speeches and the homily were given a day before the Pope came,” the 54-year-old native of South Sudan’s Yei Diocese who speaks English, Italian, Arabic, French, and Kiswahili said. 

“I was a little anxious about how I would be able to prepare these translations in a very short time to be ready for the Holy Father and to accurately translate what he was saying especially from Italian to Arabic,” the AJ Regional Superior who was ordained a Priest in October 1998 told ACI Africa during the March 21 interview.

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.