Catholic Leaders in South Sudan, DR Congo Express “great joy” Over Planned Papal Visit

Pope Francis meets with leaders of South Sudan on a spiritual retreat in the Vatican in April 2019. Credit: Vatican Media

Catholic Bishops in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) say they have received with “great joy” the news of the planned pastoral visit of Pope Francis to their respective countries.

On Thursday, March 3, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced that the Holy Father plans to visit two African nations in his July 2-7 trip that is to begin in DRC, and conclude in South Sudan.

“The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) welcomes with great joy the announcement of the apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), our country, where he will visit the cities of Kinshasa and Goma from 2 to 5 July 2022,” Catholic Bishops in the Central African nation say in their statement dated March 3. 

The July Papal trip, CENCO members add, “will be the Holy Father's third apostolic visit to our country, 37 years after those of 1980 and 1985 by Pope John Paul II.”

“The importance of such a visit is evident in that the Pope is coming to strengthen the faith of the Catholic faithful in the DRC and to rekindle the hope of the Congolese people who need peace, security and happiness,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say.


In their collective message signed by CENCO’s President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi, the Catholic Bishops implore, “We pray for the Holy Father and entrust this visit to the Lord so that it may be carried out as announced and take place in good conditions.”

They further implore, “We invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Congo and our Blessed Isidore Bakanja and Clementine Anuarite to intercede so that this apostolic visit will be a blessing for our Church and our People.”

On his part, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo describes the planned Papal trip to the Central African nation as “a priceless gift that the Lord is giving to our country, to our people, a people who are going through difficult times today.” 

“I express my gratitude to the Holy Father for having accepted to make a pastoral visit to our dear country, the DRC, from 2 to 5 July. The Family of God in Kinshasa is looking forward to this visit. Thank you, His Holiness, for coming to strengthen our faith,” Cardinal Ambongo says in a March 3 tweet.

In his four-day pastoral visit to DRC, the Holy Father is scheduled to meet the people of God in the cities of Kinshasa and Goma. In South Sudan, he is to spend three days in the country’s capital, Juba, the Director of the Holy See Press Office said in his March 3 statement.

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“The program and further details of the Journey will be announced in due course,” Mr. Bruni added.

According Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese, the Pope is visiting South Sudan to demonstrate his “solidarity with the people of this country.”

In a Catholic Radio Network (CRN) report dated March 3, Archbishop Ameyu has been quoted as saying, “The Pope’s apostolic trip to Juba is also because he is in solidarity with the people of this country.”

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

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”.

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa. 

The journey will mark the first time a Pope has visited the world's youngest nation of South Sudan and the third Papal visit to DRC, the latter being home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, are reportedly expected to join Pope Francis for the South Sudan pastoral trip.

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The South Sudanese Minister in the office of the President, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, has said that the government of South Sudan will cooperate with Church leaders and the Vatican to ensure that the Papal visit is successful.

“The government and the people are very happy to hear that Pope Francis is ready to visit the country this year,” the South Sudanese government official has been quoted as saying in the March 3 CRN report.

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.