South Sudanese Catholic Diocese Declares Three-day “funeral prayers” for Missing Priest, Driver

Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Tombura Yambio (CDTY) has declared “funeral prayers” for Fr. Luke Yugue and Michael Gbeko, who were reported missing since April 27.

Fr. Luke and Michael have been missing since the day they left South Sudan’s Nagero County on a motorbike for Tombura in the country’s Western Equatoria State. Their last phone communication was with Catechist Ngbandua of Maringindo at 13h00 local time; they did not reach their destination and could not be traced on phone.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa Thursday, May 23, Bishop Hiiboro announces “with deep sadness and heavy hearts” three-day “funeral prayers” for the member of Clergy of his Episcopal See alongside his driver.

“The Funeral prayers starts from Thursday 23rd-25th May 2024, ending with Funeral Holy Mass, Saturday (May 25th, 2024) at St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Parishes,” Bishop Hiiboro says in the statement dated May 22, adding that “the same order is equally in all our parishes and Institutions.”

He says, “From that darkest Saturday 27th of April, Fr. Luke Yugue and Michael Gbeko went missing, we have done so many enquiries to find them alive or dead but sadly to no avail. As we go into this funeral period, our quest for Search, Truth and Justice will not stop.”


The South Sudanese Catholic Bishop goes on to describe Fr. Yugue as  “a beloved young Priest in the Catholic Tombura-Yambio who had dedicated his life to serving the people and the communities that the diocese sent him to serve.”

“He was deeply committed to serving the displaced and suffering people affected by the ongoing communal conflict in Nagero and Tombura Counties,” he adds.

Bishop Hiiboro further says, “Like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior who gave up his life on the cross, shedding his blood for our salvation, Fr. Yugue and his beloved driver and friend Mr. Gbeko, too have shed their blood while serving the people they were sent to serve. As our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified by some of his very own, the people he was sent to serve, Fr. Yugue has been martyred by some of his very own.” 

“The martyrdom of a priest is something new in our diocese and community. That is why we are all shocked to the core. But the early history of our church is full of the stories of martyrdom. Our church was built on the foundation of the blood of the martyrs,” the Local Ordinary of CDTY says in his May 22 statement.

He continues, “It started with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself who gave up his life for us his Church. Of the 12 disciples that Jesus chose to succeed him, most were martyred by the very people they were sent to serve. Fr. Yugue has become part of that exclusive group.”

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“Because of the brutal manner we can imagine, in which Fr. Yugue and his driver Gbeko died, many of us have been calling for revenge. Where does the Church stand in this? The Church gets its answer in the scriptures,” Bishop Hiiboro says, referencing Christ's response to Peter when he took his sword and struck one of the people who came to arrest him, “put down your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me.”

The Local Ordinary of CDTY says, “We believe that it is the same message that Fr. Yugue is repeating to us at the moment. He is advising us to put our swords into their sheaths. He is asking us the exact question that Jesus asked Peter.”

“We believe that no matter how weak and vulnerable the Church may look now, God is in complete control and that the battle is the Lord's. God will never abandon his Church. God is going to use this trying moment to make his Church even stronger and vibrant than ever,” Bishop Hiiboro says.

He says. “Although the Church permits the act of self-defense, the act of revenge is forbidden. As humans, in situations as this, many of us believe that a sense of justice and closure could be achieved by taking the law into our hands. Indeed, the grief, anger, loss or contempt that we have for the perpetrator is making us believe that the act of revenge should be the best way forward. But the Church says NO to that.”

The Catholic Church leader, who has been at the helm of CDTY since his Episcopal Consecration in June 2008  says, “We belong to the country of laws. And it must be so! We have to trust the legal system of our nation. But we have to! Let justice for the death of the Priest and his driver run its course through the legal system. Let us allow the government to do its job.”


“As humans, each time we try to solve a serious problem like this on our own, we let emotions cloud our judgments; emotions that can drive the solution far more than sound judgment; and emotions that can lead us toward targeting innocent people and tire our community apart and making the situation and lives even worse,” he says.

Bishop Hiiboro says, “When we involve ourselves in acts of revenge, divisions and hatred are deepened and peace becomes difficult to achieve. In addition to that, those involved in acts of revenge may find themselves in deep trouble with the authorities that they will end up paying for severely.”

“All of us are in the process of building a peaceful nation where people from different ethnicities and communities can co-exist and join hands together to achieve the common goals that we gained independence for. This dream can be achieved only through peaceful co-existence and not through divisions, violence, and acts of revenge. The Church stands for justice and peace,” he says.

Bishop Hiiboro further says, “As we mourn these great brothers Fr. Luke and Mr. Gbeko but our instinct also do tell us that these two brothers are alive, we hold all that to the Author of Life, our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

He extends his hands of “friendship, empathy, compassion and love to the beloved Family of these beloved brothers to remain in hope and we seek for them in prayers with love.” 

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The South Sudanese Catholic Bishop asks the people of God to “remain firm in prayers and good acts.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.