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Nuncio to South Sudan Says Planned Ecumenical Visit “a moment of grace for all of us”

Official logo and motto of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to the South Sudan in July 2022. Credit: Vatican Media

The representative of the Holy Father in South Sudan has said that the planned ecumenical visit to the East-Central African nation is “a moment of grace” for the people of God in the country.

Addressing the congregation during the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Alex Lodiong Sakor Eyobo of Yei Diocese, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen also invited members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and the Laity to work alongside the Bishops for the success of the event.

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 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.

“Let us work and prepare with the Bishops for the event that is coming because it is going to be a moment of grace for all of us,” Archbishop van Megen said during the May 15 consecration event that took place at Christ the King Cathedral of Yei Diocese.

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The Apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan who doubles as the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya added, “Pope Francis will come here. He knows you by heart; he wants to be close to you; and he wants to embrace you.”

The Holy Father is coming with a “message of hope, mercy, reconciliation, and forgiveness of sins,” the Nuncio said, and disclosed, “In a few weeks’ time, I will be going to Rome to see the Holy Father at the end of June before he comes to Juba.” 

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 … in order to discern new avenues amid the challenges and struggles at this time.”

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

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

On 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 his May 15 speech on the occasion of the consecration of Bishop Lodiong, Archbishop van Megen said, “The Holy Father prays for all your intentions; he remembers all your sufferings; he understands all your struggles; the Holy Father prays for you.”

Let us embrace each other; let us forget about what is behind us as Saint Paul said: My heart is with you people when I see you people my heart starts to beat. Let us together put our shoulders under this new country which is South Sudan,” the Dutch-born Vatican diplomat added.

Days to his Episcopal Ordination, Bishop Lodiong had, in an interview with ACI Africa, called for prayers for the success of the planned ecumenical visit.

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“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,” he said during the May 11 interview, and added, “Pope Francis loves us; he wants to see our country coming back to peace.”

On May 5, the Social Communication Coordinator of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) told ACI Africa 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. 

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 third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.