Vatican Cardinal Ends South Sudan Trip with Blessing of Boat as “a sign of God's love”

Before concluding his 8-day Trip to South Sudan Michael Cardinal Czerny blessed a boat that the local Caritas will use to transport migrants and refugees across the Nile River from Renk to Malakal. Credit: Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD)

The Prefect for the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD) has concluded his eight-day pastoral trip to South Sudan with the blessing of a boat for transporting migrants and refugees along the Nile River from Renk, an “outreach point” in the Northeastern part of South Sudan for those fleeing violence in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city.

In his Friday, February 9 reflection before the blessing of the boat, which Caritas South Sudan is to use, Michael Cardinal Czerny made reference to the story of Jesus calming the storm from the Gospel of St. Luke 1:22-25.

“The Gospel which we have heard helps us to appreciate how important this boat is, because we can think that the storm at sea is a symbol, is the representation of the terrible conflicts and sufferings which South Sudan has had,” Cardinal Czerny said.

He added, “There has been a great storm and now Jesus is on the boat. And with the help of the boat, you can say he is calming the storm so that we can reach ashore and continue with our mission, with our journey and with our duties.”

The Czechian-born member of the Society of Jesus (SJ/Jesuits) dedicated the boat in honor of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese-born saint, who is the patron saint of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.


Credit: Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD)

He said, “This boat, which will be called Saint Josephine Bakita, will be doing the work of the church. And it will be a boat which leaves behind the storm of conflict, of violence, of hatred and of vindication, and will be sailing into more peaceful waters where people can live together as brothers and sisters.”

The founder and first director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) continued, “We're very grateful for this boat; we're very grateful for the good that it will do.”

He emphasized, “We are grateful now for God's blessing, so that this boat may always serve the purpose for which it was made and be made, and that it may indeed be a sign of God's love; a sign of Jesus's presence, his healing presence, Jesus among us, calming all the storms which disturb us.”

“Let us rejoice together and now ask for God's blessing on this boat,” the Prefect of the Vatican DPIHD said, and went on to bless the boat at the Juba port on February 9, the day he left South Sudan for Rome.

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Credit: Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD)

The Vatican-based Cardinal, who arrived in the East-Central African nation on February 3 was in the country to mark one year since the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan. 

The 3-5 February 2023 Ecumenical Visit, which Pope Francis realized alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, was organized under the theme, “I pray that all may be one”, taken from John 17.

On February 4, Cardinal Czerny presided over Holy Mass at St. Theresa’s Kator Cathedral of South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See, the venue of Pope Francis’ 4 February 2023 meeting with members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and Seminarians.

In his homily, he described his pastoral visit as “another sign” of the solidarity of the Catholic Church, and that of the Holy Father, with South Sudanese in their search for lasting peace. He also urged all stakeholders to “be faithful” to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), and have it implemented in full ahead of the general elections scheduled for this year.


On February 6, the Vatican-based Cardinal travelled to Renk, where he lauded the pastoral ministry undertaken by the Diocese of Malakal and acknowledged with appreciation the welcoming attitude of the local community amid limited resources.

He visited the reception center for returnees and refugees from Sudan and interacted with representatives of Caritas Malakal, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the United Nations. 

Credit: Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD)

On the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8, Cardinal Czerny led the people of God at St. Josephine Bakhita Church in Malakal in marking the tenth annual World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, whose theme is, “Journeying in Dignity. Listen. Dream. Act”.

In his homily, Cardinal Czerny observed that the Sudanese-born saint is “much-beloved here in Malakal, South Sudan and beyond, in Sudan and throughout the whole Catholic world.”

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“St. Josephine Bakhita gives us such a strong example of being hopeful even amidst dire circumstances,” Cardinal Czerny said.

During the Eucharistic celebration, he ordained three Seminarians Deacons: Michael Thilyang Gatkek, Emmanuel Changjwok Pawang Lual, and Matthew Akoabanda Arrey.

He urged them to be part of those who “build a civilization of love and peace in the world today … by imitating Jesus Christ, the Master who came, not to be served, but to serve.”

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