“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 reportedly because of heightened violent clashes in different parts of South Sudan amid a serious humanitarian crisis.
The Holy Father reiterated his desire to visit the country 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.
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 confirmed 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 said in the February 7 report.
Speaking to ACI Africa about the possible Papal visit to South Sudan, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of Juba Archdiocese said the people of God in the East-Central African nation await the possible pastoral visit by the Holy Father “with a lot of anxiety and hope.”
“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,” Archbishop Ameyu told ACI Africa February 19 on the sidelines of the Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Mark Kadima for Kenya’s Bungoma Diocese.
The South Sudanese Archbishop added, “Pope Francis has a special love for South Sudan. The Pope has been concerned about the peace process in South Sudan from day one.”