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.
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.