On 10 November 2019, Pope Francis led the Catholics in praying for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan and expressed the hope to visit the country.
“I address a special thought to the dear people of South Sudan, whom I will have to visit this year.” Pope Francis said during the Angelus at the Vatican.
On 13 November 2019, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby met at the Vatican during which they expressed their desire to make a joint pastoral visit to South Sudan, particularly if “a transitional government of national unity” will have been created.
After the Vatican encounter of the two global leaders at the Casa Santa Marta guest house, the Holy See Press Office reported, “During the friendly discussions, the conditions of Christians in the world was mentioned, as well as certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan.”
The Holy See Press Office statement continued, “At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that if the political situation in the Country permits the creation of a transitional government of national unity in the coming 100 days, according to the timing set by the recent agreement signed in Entebbe, in Uganda, it is their intention to visit South Sudan together.”
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On 15 November 2019, the Holy Father reconfirmed his desire to realize the ecumenical trip alongside the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, Archbishop Welby.
The trip to South Sudan had been conceived as an ecumenical one a couple of years earlier. The pastoral visit dates back to 2017 when the Holy Father expressed his desire to undertake an ecumenical visit to the East-Central African 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'", Pope Francis was quoted as saying during a 2017 meeting with the Anglican community at All Saints Church in Rome.
That year, and the subsequent years, the initiative was halted reportedly because of heightened violent clashes in different parts of South Sudan amid a serious humanitarian crisis.
In their April 11 Easter Message, SCBC members say they hope the ecumenical trip of the Holy Father “will renew us, as we are still shaken by forces of violence, death and by the evil of ethnic divisions within our church and society.”
“We as a Church want to fall on our knees before the risen Christ and confess our weakness, inhumanity and living as if we were not baptized in his name,” they say.
They further encourage the people of God in Sudan and South Sudan “not to abandon Christ in moments of trials and temptations, but to remain firm and strong in the faith of the risen Lord.”
“The victory of Christ over death is our faith, our hope and our destiny”, Catholic Church leaders in Sudan and South Sudan say in their Easter Message dated April 11.
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.