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Vatican Secretary of State to Visit South Sudan July 5, Date of Postponed Ecumenical Visit

Pietro Cardinal Parolin in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2017. | Shutterstock.

On the day Pope Francis was previously scheduled to arrive in South Sudan alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, the Vatican Secretary of State is set to land in the country. 

In a Thursday, June 23 letter addressed to all Priests, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu says Pietro Cardinal Parolin is expected to celebrate Mass and meet authorities in South Sudan during the July 5-7 visit, dates that coincide with the itinerary of the ecumenical visit was postponed.

“I have been directed by His Grace Archbishop Stephen Ameyu M. Mulla, Archbishop of Juba to officially announce the Visit of His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Secretary of State at the Vatican, scheduled to take place Tuesday 5th of July through 7th of July 2022,” the Vicar General of Juba Archdiocese, Fr. Nicholas Kiri says in the June 23 letter.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Fr. Kiri adds, “comes as papal delegate to South Sudan in the days aforementioned.”

“He will celebrate Mass on Thursday 7th of July 2022 at Dr. John Garang's Mausoleum at 10:00am,” Fr. Kiri further says, and continues in reference to Archbishop Ameyu, “I request this official announcement be ever put without fail to wider circulation, beginning with Sunday 26 of June 2022 at all the eighteen parishes and numerous chapels of the Archdiocese of Juba.”

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On his part, Pope Francis has planned to celebrate Holy Mass with Congolese in Rome on the day he was previously scheduled to preside over Sunday Mass at Ndolo Airport in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking at the start of his audience with members of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on June 13, the Holy Father said he intends to celebrate Holy Mass with the “many” Congolese in Rome on July 3.

Pope Francis said, “We will bring Kinshasa to St. Peter’s, and there we will celebrate with all the Congolese in Rome, of which there are many.”

“Unfortunately, with great regret, I had to postpone the trip to Congo and South Sudan,” the 85-year-old Pontiff told the delegates of the General Chapter of the Missionaries of Africa, a day after he had apologized to authorities of DRC and South Sudan for having to postpone his two-African-nation pastoral visit.

He reiterated his intention to reschedule the six-day trip that was to begin in the capital city of DRC, Kinshasa on July 2, and conclude on July 7 in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.

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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.”

On June 10, Matteo Bruni, the Holy See Press Office Director, announced the postponement of the Holy Father’s third visit to Africa that had been unveiled last month, saying Pope Francis’ decision to postpone the trip was “at the request of his doctors”, and that it would take place at “a later date to be determined”.

In the program that was published May 28, the Holy See described the second leg of Pope Francis’ 37th Apostolic Visit abroad as an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People”.

The 85-year-old Pontiff 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 the Holy Father 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”. 

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The Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Canada in late July is on course. On June 23, the Vatican released the itinerary for the six-day visit that is set to begin on July 24.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.