Church “satisfied” with State Preparation for Papal Maiden Trip to South Sudan: Archbishop

Church leaders in South Sudan and members of government after the April 7 preparatory meeting. Credit: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan/Facebook

The Catholic Archbishop of Juba in South Sudan has said “the Church is satisfied with” the government’s preparations to welcome Pope Francis in his planned maiden Apostolic visit to the East-Central African nation in July.

The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive in South Sudan on July 5 in his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on July 2.

On Thursday, April 7, the South Sudanese Minister of Presidential Affairs, Hon. Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, convened a meeting of the High-Level Committees comprising government and the Church representatives to deliberate on preparations for the Papal visit. 

“The Church is satisfied with the level of government preparations to welcome His Holiness Pope Francis together with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church Rev Martin Fair,” Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin has been quoted as saying in a Facebook post.

In the post by the office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan dated April 7, Archbishop Ameyu reports, “The leaders of the Church thanked President Salva Kiir Mayardit for the efforts that he has demonstrated towards the preparations for the Papal visit to South Sudan.”


Credit: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan/Facebook

In 2017, Pope Francis expressed his desire to undertake an ecumenical visit to the world’s youngest nation alongside the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop Justin Welby.

“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'", 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.

In April 2019, Pope Francis reiterated his desire to visit the East-Central country during the spiritual retreat that brought together the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar, and the widow of South Sudanese leader John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, among other political and religious leaders from South Sudan.

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In February, Archbishop 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.

In the April 7 Facebook post, officials from South Sudan’s Office of the President say focus during the meeting was on how the Church and government “will work closely with relevant institutions where appropriate to adequately prepare for the Papal visit to the Republic of South Sudan.”

“The members also agreed to form sub-committees in which they will meet next Tuesday, April 12 to finalize on the membership of the sub-committees,” the Facebook post indicates.

In the post, Hon. Barnaba who leads the government committee on the Papal visit is quoted as saying, “The Church and the government will work together closely to ensure the preparations for the visit of the Holy Father is given much attention.”


Credit: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan/Facebook

The meeting between representatives of the Church in South Sudan and the government is part of the series of initiatives to prepare for the Papal maiden visit to the country that gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.

On April 4, the head of the Committee of the Papal Visit, Bishop Stephen Nyodho Ador Majwok presided over the blessing of the ground for the construction of the Papal dais.

Addressing the congregation at the blessing ceremony, Bishop Nyodho entrusted the work of the construction of the Papal dais to God, describing the venue as the place “where the Holy Father will come and celebrate Mass with the people of this country.”

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

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The journey will be the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan and the third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

Patrick Juma Wani is a South Sudanese journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. Patrick holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD) in Uganda. He has over 7 years of extensive experience in leading the development and implementation of media, advocacy, communication and multimedia strategy and operations, with an excellent track record of editorial leadership, budget management, and stakeholder outreach. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.