Pilgrims to Come "from all over" South Sudan for Ecumenical Visit, Catholic Bishop Says

Bishop Christian Carlassare of South Sudan's Rumbek Diocese. Credit: Good News Radio (GNR)/Facebook

The July ecumenical visit to South Sudan will witness pilgrims from all the seven Catholic Dioceses of the East-Central African nation, a Catholic Bishop in the country has said.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, June 7, Bishop Christian Carlassare reflects about the July 5-7 pastoral visit that Pope Francis is to undertake alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace.

“Pope Francis is about to fulfill his desire to visit South Sudan as a pilgrim of peace. All his visits have a profound symbolic value,” Bishop Carlassare says.

He adds, “On the occasion of the Pope's visit, pilgrims from all over the country will meet in Juba. They come from regions that still bear the wounds of the conflict.”

The member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who was consecrated Bishop on March 25 says that pilgrims to the ecumenical visit will travel to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, “to pray and testify their commitment to peace. This is how our proposal for a youth pilgrimage from Rumbek to Juba was born.”


The Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese goes on to explain the youth pilgrimage that his Episcopal See is organizing that will see dozens of young people walk from Rumbek to Juba.

He says in his June 7 statement, “In seven days, we will cover about four hundred kilometres partly on foot and partly by car. On the way, we will stop over in our parishes and take the opportunity to pray and animate young people about the reality that peace is a journey that we must undertake together.”

The scheduled pilgrimage, Bishop Carlassare says, is “a journey that demands commitment, perseverance despite difficulties and, above all, believing in it to the end.”

The journey from Rumbek to Juba is to undertaken “in prayer to prepare the heart to welcome a reality that transcends us,” the Italian-born Bishop who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 says.

In his June 7 reflection on the scheduled ecumenical visit to South Sudan, which the church leaders behind it spearheaded have described as “pilgrimage of peace”, Bishop Carlassare emphasizes the need to understand peace as a gift from God.

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“No one should believe that peace is simply the fruit of our human efforts. Peace does not actually belong to us by right. It is a gift that comes from above.” he says, and adds, “Peace is a gift and must be kept as a precious treasure. And it must be kept in the safest bank in the world, which is called forgiveness.”

The Catholic Bishop whose initially scheduled Episcopal Ordination was postponed after he was shot in both legs weeks after his 8 March 2021 appointment poses a series of question to underscore the mutual interaction between peace and forgiveness.

“How can we speak of peace if we do not know how to forgive? How can we be credible if not through sincere forgiveness? How can we evangelize if not living the forgiveness which alone does justice, restores truth, offers another chance and opens the door to peace?” Bishop Carlassare poses.

He says, “Only those who are willing to disarm their heart by forgiving others, can be truly called peacemakers.”

In the June 7 statement shared with ACI Africa, the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese acknowledges with appreciation Pope Francis’ closeness with the people of God in South Sudan. 


Pope Francis, he says, “could not miss out on visiting South Sudan. It is the youngest country in the world to achieve independence.”

Pope Francis expressed his desire to undertake an ecumenical visit to the world’s youngest nation alongside the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop Justin Welby, in 2017.

The initiative was halted reportedly because of heightened violent clashes in different parts of South Sudan amid a serious humanitarian crisis.

In April 2019, Pope Francis reiterated his desire to visit South Sudan 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 a February 7 report, Archbishop Welby confirmed the ecumenical visit to South Sudan, saying it would be undertaken “in the next few months.”

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On May 28, officials of the Holy See Press unveiled the itinerary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and what they described an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People”.

When realized, Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to South Sudan that is part of his two-African-nation trip scheduled to begin in DRC on July 2 will mark the first-ever Papal visit to the East-Central African nation that gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.

In his June 7 reflection, Bishop Carlassare regrets the fact that a couple of years after gaining independence, South Sudan “fell into an internal conflict over the control and sharing of resources, that seriously impacted the population, causing the disintegration of the social fabric and the consequent ethnic division.”

 “There is nothing good in a conflict. War is only death and a defeat for all,” he says, making reference to Pope Francis.

The Catholic Bishop adds, “War is always a defeat of humanity. We fail in our humanity both when we are complicit in violence and when, caught up by the arrogant logic of the world, we do not commit to restore peace and fall victims of the interests of an elite.”

“We need to reclaim our humanity, rise up and unite in a common commitment to peace. This is my hope for South Sudan,” the Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese says.

Making reference to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the 44-year-old Bishop expresses the hope that “the peace agreement signed by the rulers will be followed by the awakening of the consciences of all the people, of all those young people who have been manipulated and pushed to violence.”

“The conflict is a dead end that leads us nowhere. So, I dream of a country where all ethnic groups set out for unity, perhaps guided by young people as beacons of peace who have finally become aware of their role in a country that needs vision and fresh commitment,” Bishop Carlassare adds in his June 7 reflection shared with ACI Africa.

The July 2-7 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and the third Papal visit to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

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