, 21 December, 2019 / 2:28 AM
Several days after letters expressing rejection of a Papal transfer of a Bishop in South Sudan emerged, the heads of dioceses in Sudan and South Sudan constituting the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) have thrown their weight behind the Holy Father and his representatives in the world’s youngest nation and expressed regrets “with great humility the inappropriate language used” in two defamatory letters.
“We, the Sudan and South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, celebrate with Catholics and all the people of Juba and the nation, that there is now a new Catholic Archbishop,” the Bishops have stated in a letter following their “Extraordinary Plenary Meeting held in the Residence of the Archbishop of Juba” dated Thursday, December 19.
“We acknowledge the decision of the Holy Father of accepting the resignation of Archbishop Paolino Lukudu, allowing him to take a well-deserved and long overdue rest, and appointing his successor, Most Reverend Stephen Ameyu Mulla as the Archbishop of Juba,” the Sudanese Bishops’ letter obtained by ACI Africa reads, referencing the December 12 Papal transfer of Bishop Ameyu from Torit Diocese.
Signed by six of the eight Sudan and South Sudan Church leaders in attendance, the letter expresses SCBC members’ “heartfelt thanks to the Holy Father” for the transfer of Bishop Ameyu to Juba and that they “welcome the new Archbishop with full support unreservedly.”
The same day the Papal transfer became public, a six-page letter signed by three clerics and five laymen, all of Archdiocese emerged, the undersigned writing it as a “follow up of our previous memo, entitled: UTMOST CONCERN ON THE IMMINENT APPOINTMENT OF THE NEXT ARCHBISHOP OF JUBA dated Tuesday, 10th December 2019.”
While the December 10 letter seems to manifest a violation of the “pontifical secret” that guides the confidentiality, which those informed about an imminent Papal appointment of a Local Ordinary must maintain, it is the defamatory content of the two letters that made the Church leaders to call the Thursday meeting.
“We came to Juba purposely because we became aware of the serious reactions from some laity and clergy of the archdiocese of Juba regarding the appointment of Archbishop Stephen Ameyu,” the members of SCBC have stated in their collective letter seen by ACI Africa.
Referencing the authors of the two defamatory letters, the Prelates have said, “We regret with great humility the inappropriate language used in their two letters against the Holy See, papal legates (the Apostolic Nuncio and Chargé d'affaires), institutions, the new Archbishop and some members of clergy mentioned in the two letters.”
While the two letters cite a “Series of conspiracies and briberies by some determined interest groups and lobbyists both inside and outside Juba” with the December 12 one noting “substantial evidence that the Nunciature in Juba was heavily compromised by some officials from the government of South Sudan from its inception up to date,” the members of SCBC have appreciated the Vatican diplomats in South Sudan.
In their letter, the Church leaders have expressed their “deep thanks to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Bert van Megen and his colleague Monsignor Mark Kadima the Chargé d'affaires in the Apostolic Nunciature in Juba, for their role in this joyful event.”
They have added, “We wish to assure them our continued confidence in their service, and our hope that they will continue in the love and commitment in the service of the Church.”
Whereas the signatories to the two letters stated that they would not accept the Archbishop-elect to assume office in Juba because they have evidence he “has two concubines and six biological children,” Church leaders under SCBC have stated, “We look forward to working closely with Archbishop Stephen in a collegial spirit and fraternal collaboration.”
“How can our mother Church go for this Bishop when some of our priests were disqualified on unfounded rumours of fathering only one child?” those protesting the Papal transfer of the Archbishop-elect probed in their December 12 letter that also described some priests of Juba Archdiocese as “polygamists, businessmen and senior government security personnel.”
On their part, the heads of dioceses in Sudan and South Sudan have called on the faithful in Juba Archdiocese “to remain calm and try to reach the relevant Church Authority in search of correct information” and appealed “to the clergy and Religious all over the Archdiocese of Juba to remain united!”
According to SCBC members, “The issues raised in the two letters can be handled within the competencies of the Catholic Church: The Holy See, Bishops’ Conference, and the Archdiocese of Juba.”
“We pray that the Holy Spirit will be with us in making it possible for the Holy Father to realise his desire to see the people of South Sudan in the year 2020, also for him to encourage the process of all the parties working for lasting peace in the two nations,” the Sudanese Church leaders have concluded their three-page letter.
ACI Africa correspondent in South Sudan, Peter Mapuor Makur contributed to this news report
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa