South Sudanese Bishop Urges Government “to reverse” Ban on Public Worship

Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan.

A Catholic Bishop in South Sudan has appealed to the government to reverse a ban on public worship as the East Central African country battles the second wave of COVID-19, saying that people are already overwhelmed.

In a message issued on Saturday, February 6, Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio says that the country’s majority poor people are locked out of virtual prayers and that they need to take part in public worship.

“In this particular lockdown, I urge the government to reverse its decision to ban communal worship …The benefits of public worship are huge now that most people in my Diocese have poor or no access to technology,” Bishop Hiiboro says, underscoring the need to proceed with in-person liturgical celebrations.

He says, “As Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself.”

On February 3, South Sudan government ordered a fresh closure of all pre-schools, schools, universities and all the other learning institutions, citing a surge in reported cases of COVID-19.


Those exempted in the new measures include classes scheduled for examinations “with observations of strict protective measures.”

The ban included restrictions on all the social gatherings, such as sporting events, religious events such as public church liturgies, Salat Al Juma Mosque Prayers, funerals, wedding ceremonies and political events.

Following the ban, Bishop Matthew Remijio of South Sudan’s Wau Diocese, on February 4, directed that all public liturgical celebrations be suspended.

On Sunday, February 7, the leadership of South Sudan’s Yei Diocese closed all prayer places in line with government directives.

Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe said that being a second lockdown, it should not shock the people and called for calm and hope amid suspension of church activities in public.

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“We should not be anxious about this lockdown because it is not happening for the first time. And because the first one was a complete lockdown, it should be a relief that this time, it is only partial,” Bishop Lodu said February 7 on Radio Easter of Yei Diocese, one of the Radios constituting the Catholic Radio Network (CRN).

He added, “Let us recognize the situation and take care of ourselves and do what we can do within our limit, keeping social distance, wearing a mask and washing our hands… Let us adhere to the directives given by the government of South Sudan and the ministry of health.”

For Bishop Hiiboro, however, the church should be a place of consolation for people who are undergoing difficulties during the pandemic, and need to be accessed, with worshippers adhering to safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“At a time like this, the church is here to offer comfort and spiritual support to everyone. We have a duty to care for each other, but particularly those who are vulnerable or who may be most at risk,” Bishop Hiiboro said.

He added, “I would urge everyone in our Churches, Mosques, state and the entire nation to pray for those on the frontline in our public services.”


The Local Ordinary of Tombura-Yambio is of the view that the South Sudanese government consults with faith-based groups in the country toward collective measures to combat the coronavirus.

“In a crisis as this, we would like to urge the government to consult with the churches and faith-based communities on how best to collectively join our hands and combat the problem with all our energies and resources,” the South Sudanese Bishop says in his February 6 message.  

In the message, where he signed off as the Chairperson for Interfaith Council of Peace Initiative in Western Equatoria State, Bishop Hiiboro further says, “The unilateral closure of the churches, mosques and places of worship disempowers and harms the souls of the people in this country.”

Set to proceed with public worship in his Diocese, Bishop Hiiboro advises members of the Clergy and others who have concerns about going to church amid the partial lockdown to “take particular care and stay at home.”