Ecumenical Visit Preparations in S. Sudan “will continue” Despite Postponement: Archbishop

From Left to Right: Chargé d'affaires at South Sudan Nunciature, Mons. Lonut Straejac; Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of Juba Archdiocese; and the Secretary General of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), Fr. Peter Suleiman, during a press conference in Juba on 10 June 2022. Credit: ACI Africa

Preparations toward the ecumenical visit to South Sudan “will continue” despite the decision to postpone the three-day event that was scheduled for July 5-7, the Archbishop of Juba has said.

Addressing journalists June 10, the day Matteo Bruni, the Holy See Press Office Director, announced the postponement “with regret” of the Holy Father’s third  trip to Africa, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu said the Holy Father is still determined to visit South Sudan.

“We will continue with the activities that have been planned like meetings and other preparations,” Archbishop Ameyu told journalists about the postponed trip that the Holy Father was to undertake alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace.

He added, “This announcement cannot stop us from preparing because the Holy Father is postponing his visit to South Sudan, not canceling it.” 

“The planned ecumenical prayer of this month will continue without any problem,” the South Sudanese Archbishop further said, making reference to a prayer initiative, which church leaders in South Sudan have organized.


In a May 28 Interview with Radio Bakhita, the Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Torit Diocese said, “There will be reconciliation prayer so that all of us are reconciled before the Holy Father comes.”

“Before the coming of Pope Francis this prayer will include all the churches and believers even Muslims for reconciliation that will be in June,” he said about the ecumenical prayer session that is to take place at John Garang Mausoleum in Juba.

Announcing the postponement of Pope Francis’ two-African-nation pastoral trip that had been unveiled last month, Mr. Bruni indicated that the decision was “at the request of his doctors”, and that it would take place at “a later date to be determined”.

He explained in his June 10 statement, “At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan.”

Addressing journalists in Juba on June 10 after the news of the postponement was made public, Archbishop Ameyu said, “Let us have the attitude of accepting the situation”.

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“When there is a health problem, things are always postponed and we are optimistic that he will come when his health has improved,” he said.

Responding to a journalist who wanted to know when the Holy Father was likely to travel, the Archbishop said, “Let us not speak about the timeline when the Pope will come because we know that his health condition was the reason for the delayed journey.”

He urged the people of God in the East-Central African nation “not to get discouraged because the postponement was due to the Pope’s health problem.”

“He was ready to come but the doctors advised him not to come because his situation will worsen, but he was determined to come,” Archbishop Ameyu emphasized during the June 10 press conference.

In the program the Holy See published on May 28, Pope Francis’ 37th Apostolic Visit abroad was to to begin in the capital city of DRC, Kinshasa on July 2, and conclude on July 7 in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.


On June 12, Pope Francis said he is praying to reschedule the Apostolic trip to DRC and the ecumenical visit to South Sudan “as soon as possible”.

In his remarks after his Angelus reflection for pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Holy Trinity, the Holy Father expressed optimism and asked the people of God to join him in praying for the realization of the two-African-nation pastoral visit.

He apologized to authorities of the two African nations for having to postpone the six-day trip.

On Monday, June 13, the Holy Father reiterated his intention to reschedule his African trip.

Speaking at the start of his audience with members of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall June 13, Pope Francis said, “Unfortunately, with great regret, I had to postpone the trip to Congo and South Sudan.”

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The 85-year-old Pontiff added, “Indeed, at my age, it is not so easy to go on a mission trip! But your prayers and example give me courage, and I am confident that I can visit these peoples, whom I carry in my heart.”

Pope Francis has been suffering from a torn ligament in his right knee, limiting his ability to walk. On May 19, he used a wheelchair during a public meeting, the first time he had done so publicly since leaving the hospital after colon surgery in July 2021.

The pain in his right knee has seen him cancel some of his engagements. For instance, 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”. 

On June 13, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will not preside at the June 16 Corpus Christi Mass and procession due to the pain in his right knee.

In a statement, the Holy See press office said that the decision not to preside over Holy Mass of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi was taken “due to the limitations imposed on the Pope by gonalgia,” or knee pain, “and the specific liturgical needs of the celebration.”

The Holy Father is still scheduled to visit three cities in Canada next month, from July 24-29.

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.