New Archbishop of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese Installed, Emeritus Wants “healing”

Bishops in South and South Sudan during the installation Mass of Archbishop Stephen Ameyu, Mass also attended by the Delegate of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Msgr. Visvaldas Kulbokas and the Charge d’Affaires of the South Sudan Apostolic Nunciature, Msgr. Mark Kadima.
Credit: ACI Africa

After months of a standoff pitting a section of the clergy and lay faithful of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba in South Sudan and the Vatican over the Papal transfer of Bishop Stephen Ameyu from Torit to Juba, the new Archbishop was installed Sunday, March 22.

At the event, the Archbishop emeritus emphasized the need for “reconciliation and healing because we are deeply wounded.”

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Ameyu as the new Archbishop of Juba on December 12, an appointment that was resisted by some clergy and lay faithful of the Archdiocese who wrote multiple protest letters to the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Propaganda Fide.

“The congregation was jovial and one couldn’t notice that conflicting issues existed. The faithful expressed frustrations and blamed the protesters for making the Catholic Church insecure to an extent of being highly guarded by soldiers,” Juba-based ACI Africa correspondent reported about the Sunday event in which the new Archbishop was appointed the Apostolic Administrator of Torit Diocese.

The Archbishop emeritus of Juba, Paolino Lukudu Loro said he was happy to be free from Church responsibility after serving for over four decades.

“After 45 years of serving the Catholic Church as Apostolic Administrator, Bishop and Archbishop and a priest, I am free at last,” Archbishop Lukudu said and thanked the clergy, religious men and women and the lay faithful “for welcoming Archbishop Ameyu to the Archdiocese of Juba.”

Archbishop Lukudu distanced himself from the controversies that have characterized the appointment of his successor, which involved strongly-worded letters expressing outright rejection of the Holy Father’s choice with threats of violence if the appointment would be upheld.

“My dear people of God, what had happened in the Archdiocese of Juba since December up to now, the confusion did not come from us, the confusion came from outside,” the 79-year-old South Sudanese Prelate said, referencing the authors of the protest letters.

In the protest letters, the signatories referred to themselves as “the representatives of various groups of the indigenous faithful (clergy, chiefs, women and youth) of the Archdiocese of Juba.”

“This installation will not happen under our watch. The Nuncio or his surrogates can only install Bishop Ameyu on the Cathedra of Juba over our dead bodies,” read the Press Statement from the protesters dated March 8.

Addressing the clergy, religious men and women, and the lay faithful who turned up to witness the installation of Archbishop Ameyu, the Archbishop emeritus expressed the need “to reconcile among ourselves.”

“There is no problem between Torit and Juba; Torit and Juba were belonging to one diocese,” the member of the Comboni Missionaries said and added referencing the tribe of his successor and his own respectively, “There is no problem between Lotuho and the Bari. There is a lot of propaganda among us. There is no Bari and Lotuho in the Church; there are sons of God.”

He emphasized, “What I think to be done after this is reconciliation and healing because we are deeply wounded. Let us go for reconciliation and healing of our own selves. Let us stop provocation and renew our faith.”

On his part, the new Archbishop said he was “greatly humbled and yet highly honored to be chosen to this position only after 8 months or 12 months” of service as a Bishop.

Until his appointment as the Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese on December 12, Archbishop Ameyu recalled that he “was simply a priest, a staff, a teacher at St. Paul’s Major Seminary and I wanted to remain so for the whole of my life as teacher.”

Recalling the events of the months following his appointment, the 56-year-old South Sudanese Prelate invited all in attendance to “pray that the devil that would like us to be separated will be cast out.”

“Here today we are standing together, we are standing together to reconcile,” he said and added, “Our church is matured. We are just celebrated the centenary of faith in this Archdiocese and the theme was renewing our faith in Christ, not in anybody else, not in the Bishops.”

“We must refrain from violence,” the new Archbishop of Juba concluded.

The well-attended event was presided over by the President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference of (SCBC), Bishop Tombe Trille Kuku of El Obeid diocese in Sudan along with three South Sudanese Bishops, the Delegate of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Msgr. Visvaldas Kulbokas and the Charge d’Affaires of the South Sudan Apostolic Nunciature, Msgr. Mark Kadima.

Bishop Tombe invited the people of God in the Archdiocese of Juba to “open a new page of forgiveness, a new page of grace for spiritual growth and effective pastoral fruits.”

“The scripture speaks to you; do your best to preserve the unity, which the spirit gives each one of you in this Archdiocese of Juba by means of peace that bind you together,” the Sudanese Prelate said and added, “We thank God for providing us with the new Shepherd in the Church; we thank God for the formation of government of national unity in South Sudan; congratulations.”

He went on to express his gratitude to Pope Francis for his solidarity with the people of God in the Archdiocese of Juba saying, “we are also deeply grateful to the Holy Father Francis for his profound spiritual and fatherly stand for you the people of the Archdiocese, for you the people of South Sudan.”

The Sunday occasion was graced by the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir and three of the Vice Presidents, including Dr. Riek Machar among other government dignitaries.

Bishop Stephen Nyodho of Malakal and Bishop Paride Taban, the Bishop emeritus of Torit witnessed the installation of the new Archbishop of Juba alongside the heads of the two vacant dioceses in South Sudan, Rumbek and Wau.

Meanwhile, the Vatican-based Msgr. Kulbokas announced the appointment of Archbishop Ameyu “as the Apostolic Administrator of Torit Diocese,” granting “him all the necessary faculties to govern that diocese appropriately.”

ACI Africa Correspondent in South Sudan, Peter Mapuor Makur contributed to this news report.


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