“We await his visit with hope, anxiety”: South Sudanese Archbishop on Possible Papal Visit

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of South Sudan's Juba Archdiocese. Credit: ACI Africa

The people of God in South Sudan await the possible pastoral visit by the Holy Father “with a lot of anxiety and hope”, the Archbishop of the country’s only Metropolitan See has told ACI Africa in an interview.

In the February 19 interview on the sidelines of the Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Mark Kadima, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu made reference to media reports that have indicated that Pope Francis and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury could jointly visit South Sudan later this year.

Archbishop Ameyu said, “We are excited and praying for the Holy Father to visit South Sudan. We hope it is going to happen and it will happen by God’s grace.”

“Pope Francis has a special love for South Sudan. The Pope has been concerned about the peace process in South Sudan from day one,” the South Sudanese Archbishop said, and added, “We await the visit of Pope Francis with a lot of anxiety and hope.”

Last December, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States said that the wish by Pope Francis to visit South Sudan had received “great support”.


Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher who held meetings with South Sudanese political and religious leaders as well as collaborators of the Archbishop of Canterbury from December 21 was quoted as saying that Pope Francis has expressed the wish to visit South Sudan on multiple occasions and notified those involved in organizing such a visit.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Justin Welby was quoted as confirming the joint visit to South Sudan “in the next few months.”

“God willing, sometime in the next few months, perhaps a year, we will go and see them in Juba, not in Rome, and see what progress can be made,” Archbishop Welby was quoted as saying in the February 7 report.

“That is history,” the Anglican Archbishop said about the joint trip to South Sudan that, if undertaken, would mark the first time the two church leaders undertake an ecumenical pastoral visit together.

In the February 19 interview, Archbishop Ameyu made reference to the April 2019 encounter between Pope Francis and key political leaders in South Sudan when, in an unprecedented gesture, the Holy Father kissed the feet of several South Sudanese leaders; he pleaded for the gift of peace for a people disfigured by the civil war that erupted in December 2013.

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The South Sudanese Archbishop told ACI Africa, “Even our political leaders, you remember, he kissed their feet telling them to go over their differences and build peace in the country.”

The Holy Father promised to “come to South Sudan to strengthen the faith of the people,” the Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese said, and added in reference to Pope Francis, “He is going to come with his counterpart from the Anglican Church and his visit will mean a lot to us.”

Looking back at the impact of the April 2019 encounter between Pope Francis and the South Sudanese political leaders at the Vatican, Archbishop Ameyu said, “His visit will help concretize the peace process in our country; his visit will mean Christ is going to visit his people anywhere. It is not about good roads, good houses but because human beings are living there.”

“We once again call on the political leaders to play their part and ensure that peace reigns,” the Archbishop who has been at the helm of South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See since March 2020 said. 

The visit to South Sudan reportedly dates back to 2017 when Pope Francis expressed his desire to undertake an ecumenical visit to the world’s youngest nation alongside the head of the Anglican church.


“My collaborators are studying the possibility of a trip to South Sudan. But why? Because the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic Bishops came to tell me: 'Please come to South Sudan maybe just for one day. But don't come alone, come with Justin Welby'. This came from the young church in that country, and it got us thinking about a very bad situation there, and about the fact that they want peace, to work together for peace," Pope Francis was quoted as saying during a 2017 meeting with the Anglican community at All Saints Church in Rome.

That year, the initiative was halted following heightened violent clashes in different parts of South Sudan amid a serious humanitarian crisis.

The Holy Father reiterated his pastoral visit to South Sudan in April 2019, during the spiritual retreat that brought together the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the opposition leader, Riek Machar, and the widow of South Sudanese leader John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, among other political and religious leaders from South Sudan.

In the February 19 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Ameyu reflected on the efforts to realize the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS saying, “The peace process is going on well at least for a few months now because of the understanding of the opposition and the government.”

“They are trying to put the soldiers together, especially the new group that signed the peace agreement recently. This group has come to Juba in order to be integrated directly with the government,” Archbishop Ameyu said. 

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He said the opposition leaders are also sending their troops into the containment area “in order to merge them. We hope that during the coming months, they will be graduating as a unified single force to protect the whole country.”

He added in reference to the military units, “I encourage them because there is always a devil in the details but I hope that we will come out of these details.”

Addressing himself to South Sudanese political leaders, the 58-year-old Catholic Archbishop said, “It is only left for them to assure the people of South Sudan about peace negotiations and that there will be no war.”

“We got assurance from the presidency that they will not take the country to war again,” Archbishop Ameyu told ACI Africa February 19, adding, “This is a positive as that will really help us get the peace that we need.”

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.