Church in South Sudan Set “to intensify awareness campaigns” about Planned Ecumenical Trip

Fr. John Gbemboyo, Social Communication Coordinator at the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC). Credit: ACI Africa

Catholic Bishops in South Sudan have agreed to spearhead campaigns aimed at making the people of God aware of the planned ecumenical visit in their respective Dioceses, a Catholic Priest serving at the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) has told ACI Africa in an interview.

Pope Francis is expected 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. 

The South Sudan trip is to be realized along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace.

In the Thursday, May 5 interview with ACI Africa, the SCBC Social Communication Coordinator said the organizing committee of the planned ecumenical visit is working toward ensuring participation of Christians “in good numbers”.

“The Bishops have already agreed to intensify awareness campaigns in the Dioceses and have also formed committees to talk to people about the coming of the Holy Father and his efforts for peace in this country,” Fr. John Gbemboyo told ACI Africa.


“It is a blessing for us to hear the coming of the Holy Father and him coming on pastoral visit means a shepherd is coming to see the people under his care,” Fr. Gbemboyo said, and added, “We have to come out in good numbers to participate in the visit of Pope Francis to our country.”

SCBC members have initiated the awareness campaigns in collaboration with members of their respective Diocesan administration in order to “bring people together and select delegates who can come to the central part here in Juba for the reception of the Holy Father,” the South Sudanese Catholic Priest further said. 

“There is coordination going on but it's more based on the administration of each Diocese to organize for the delegates to come to Juba,” Fr. Gbemboyo said during the May 5 interview.

He said that those organizing the ecumenical visit “are sure many people are planning to come to Juba for the reception of Holy Father Pope Francis.”

“We want our people to know that it's also a sign of appreciation that they come together. Those who are able, let them prepare themselves to come to Juba for this great event, which is going to take place in our country,” the Catholic Priest told ACI Africa.  

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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 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.

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.

“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.


Pope Francis reiterated his desire to visit the East-Central African nation in April 2019, 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.

In February, 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 was quoted as saying in the February 7 report.

In the May 5 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Gbemboyo appealed for material, spiritual and financial support from South Sudanese ahead of the planned ecumenical visit.

“We call on people within the city, our business community, MPs, ministers, people with ability to contribute; let them contribute to the Church,” he said, adding that “in the parishes around here in Juba, let people come and support because the parishes under the Archdiocese will be hosting delegates from the States and other Dioceses.”

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He also appealed for spiritual solidarity ahead of the planned ecumenical trip. He said, “We have to start praying now for the visit of these great leaders.”

“Let us come in good numbers beginning first with prayers for them, prayers for peace in our country,” the SCBC Communications Coordinator said.

Last month, the Archbishop of Juba said the Church is satisfied with the government’s preparations to welcome Pope Francis in his planned ecumenical visit to South Sudan.

“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 was quoted as saying in a Facebook post.

In the May 5 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Gbemboyo appealed for working together saying, “We need to collaborate together to support this visit. Let us give a hand; let us support this; let us even support financially or materially.”

The South Sudanese Priest added, “Let us support the committees, which will be leading these activities on our behalf. Above all let us put God first because where there is God there is peace. Let us pray for peace as the Holy Father is coming to South Sudan.”

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.