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South Sudanese Archbishop Dies in Kenya, Successor Says “star has this morning flickered”

The Late Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro, Archbishop emeritus of South Sudan's Juba Archdiocese who died 5 April 2021 aged 80.

Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro, the immediate former Archbishop of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese, has died in Nairobi, Kenya, at the age of 80.

In his Monday, April 5 statement announcing the death of the South Sudanese Archbishop, the Local Ordinary of Juba says that the news is “tragic and saddest of all news” and describes the late member of the Comboni Missionaries as “a star” that has “flickered out.”  

“I, your shepherd, by God’s will and design, bring to you the saddest news of my entire life-time: My predecessor and Father, His Grace Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro, a star that ceaselessly was shining over our church and nation for well over thirty years has this morning flickered out in the Kenyan Capital City of Nairobi,” Archbishop Stephen Ameyu says in his statement obtained by ACI Africa.

“The late Archbishop Lukudu suffered a stroke while in Juba and was brought to Nairobi for specialized treatment during the Holy Week,” a Comboni Missionary Priest in Nairobi told ACI Africa April 5.

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The Cleric added, “The Archbishop was conscious when he was brought to Nairobi. However, he went into comma and this morning at 7 a.m., he was confirmed dead at the Nairobi Hospital where he had been admitted.”

“This tragic and saddest of all news will not affect only the church but indeed the wider community of our South Sudan society,” Archbishop Ameyu says in his statement announcing the death of his predecessor, which he addresses to “my brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow-citizens of our great nation.”

The Archbishop who has been at the helm of South Sudan’s only Metropolitan Archdiocese since March 2020 declares four days of mourning and adds, “Further pieces of information on the content of the mourning period will be announced as soon as they are available.”

The late South Sudanese Archbishop was ordained a Priest in April 1970. Four years later, he was appointed the Apostolic Administrator of Sudan’s El Obeid Diocese.

He was appointed Bishop of the same Sudanese episcopal see in March 1979 and ordained a Bishop in May 1979.

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The member of the Comboni Missionaries was transferred to Juba Archdiocese in February 1983, succeeding Archbishop Ireneo Wien Dud.

Archbishop Lukudu remained the Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese until December 2019 when Pope Francis accepted his retirement.

The naming of the late Archbishop’s successor was followed by several months of controversy characterized by protest letters and threats of violence, a section of the Clergy of Juba Archdiocese and some members of the Laity expressing their rejection of the Papal appointment, and the then retired Archbishop seeking to distance himself from the controversy.

Following a series of protest letters addressed to the Congregation for the Evangelization of People (Propaganda Fide), the Holy Father launched an “investigative process” and having “recognized that the evaluating process was done in a correct way” reconfirmed his appointment of the Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s Torit Diocese as Archbishop of Juba Archdiocese, a decision that triggered further protests against the Archbishop-elect.

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The late Archbishop who had not spoken to journalists all along broke his silence when Fr. Nicholas Kiri who had been appointed to head the committee to organize the installation of the Archbishop-elect was attacked and injured on 8 March 2020.

“I have learnt and seen that some faithful and some church personnel sustained some injuries,” Archbishop Lukudu stated, adding, “Thanks be to God that no life was lost. I am unhappy to hear of violent threats and hostilities.”

In his 9 March 2020 statement, the late Archbishop expressed his sadness upon hearing the news of the attack of Fr. Kiri that involved a confrontation between some youth and security officers at the Cathedral Parish.

“I urge all diocesan priests, religious and faithful of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba to refrain from violent activities and (desist) from violent threats and hostilities,” Archbishop Lukudu had appealed.

Making reference to two Diocesan Priests who had fled their residence following the 8 March 2020 attack, the late Archbishop had stated, “Let the priests who left their communities come back immediately.”

He went on to encourage members of the Clergy and Religious in the South Sudanese Archdiocese he had administered since February 1983 to “work together toward unifying our faithful.”

“We must avoid divisive politics and reckless utterances which lead to animosity and violence,” the late Archbishop had added and urged “our young people not to engage in acts of violence against whichever group.”

“We are capable of solving our own issues and differences through dialogue,” the late South Sudanese Archbishop had said in March 2020.

The late Archbishop was the first occupant of the first ever Bishops’ retirement home that was put up by the South Sudanese Archdiocese with help from the Vatican and other donors.

Christened “Jerusalem Home,” the building was officially opened on 15 June 2020 in an inaugural celebration that was presided over by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Juba, Fr. Moris Lado.

In an interview with ACI Africa during the inaugural event, Archbishop Lukudu acknowledged that the retirement home would not have been a success without the concerted effort of well-wishers including non-Catholics.

“We did it together with our local people. Even individuals in our government contributed something for the construction,” the late Archbishop told ACI Africa, adding that the home is something he thought about as he approached retirement age, and requested Pope Francis’s support.

“This house is a contribution from the Holy Father. I knew that I was retiring more than a year ago. When I met the Pope, I spoke of my imminent retirement,” Archbishop Lukudu told ACI Africa last June.

He added in reference to Pope Francis, “I asked him to build this house. The support I got from the Pope went a long way into seeing the construction of this facility with generous donations from our friends.”