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Pray for Success of Planned Ecumenical Visit to South Sudan: Bishop-elect

Mons. Alex Lodiong Sakor Eyobo, appointed Bishop of South Sudan's Yei Diocese by Pope Francis on 11 February 2022. Credit: Catholic Radio Network

The Bishop-elect for the Catholic Diocese of Yei in South Sudan has called for prayers for the success of the planned ecumenical visit to the East-Central African nation. 

In a Wednesday, May 11 interview with ACI Africa, Mons. Alex Lodiong Sakor Eyobo said the success of the visit by the Holy Father to the country is for the good of the people of God in South Sudan.

“Pray for the coming of the Holy Father, that his visit be successful because it is fruitful to us as the people of God in this Country,” Mons. Lodiong said.

The South Sudanese Bishop-elect added in reference to the violent conflict in South Sudan since December 2013, “Pope Francis loves us; he wants to see our country coming back to peace.” 

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. 

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

In a May 7 joint-statement, Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Rt. Rev. Wallace described the planned ecumenical trip to South Sudan as a “pilgrimage of peace.”

The three church leaders urged South Sudanese leaders to follow the “way of forgiveness and freedom.”

Jesus Christ “shows us that a new way is possible: a way of forgiveness and freedom, which enables us humbly to see God in each other, even in our enemies,” they said in their May 7 joint-statement.

They urged South Sudanese leaders to embrace the path of forgiveness and freedom “in order to discern new avenues amid the challenges and struggles at this time.”

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“We pray too that your people will experience the hope of Easter through your leadership. In anticipation of our Pilgrimage of Peace this coming summer, we look forward to visiting your great country,” Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Rt. Rev. Wallace said in their joint-statement. 

If realized, Pope Francis will become the first Pope to visit South Sudan, which became the world’s newest nation after gaining independence from the Republic of the Sudan on 9 July 2011.

Earlier this month, the 85-year-old Pope started using a wheelchair in public due to a torn ligament in his right knee. The knee pain has seen him cancel some of his engagements. 

On Monday, May 9, the Tourism Minister of Lebanon announced that the Holy Father had postponed the June 12-13 trip to the Western Asian country “for health reasons”. 

In the May 11 interview with ACI Africa, the Bishop-elect whose Episcopal appointment was made public on February 11 said acknowledged with appreciation Pope Francis’ love for South Sudan. 

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“The Holy Father loves this country and he has longed to see this country for a number of years,” Mons. Lodiong said, and added, “Once somebody has a good gesture of love toward us, why shouldn’t we prepare and welcome him to benefit from his grace.”

“We have to be in communion with the Holy Father because being in communion means we have to work and prepare for him,” the South Sudanese Bishop-elect further said.  

He appealed for active participation in the planned ecumenical visit saying, “It is our responsibility to sensitize the people and make them aware of the Pope’s visit because of his love for us, the people of South Sudan.”

“If a Bishop doesn't talk about the visit of the Holy Father to his people, then the Bishop is not in communion with the Holy Father,” The 51-year-old Bishop-elect whose Episcopal Ordination is scheduled for May 15 told ACI Africa during the May 11 interview.

Last week, the Social Communication Coordinator of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) said that 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. 

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“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 May 5.