Vatican State Secretary’s South Sudan Trip “doesn’t replace” Pope Francis’ Visit: Bishop

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

The visit of the Vatican Secretary of State to South Sudan on the day Pope Francis was previously scheduled to arrive in the East-Central African nation “doesn’t replace” the visit of the Holy Father to the country, a Catholic Bishop in the country has said.

On June 23, the Archbishop of Juba announced the arrival of Pietro Cardinal Parolin in South Sudan to celebrate Holy Mass and meet authorities in the country in a three-day visit from Tuesday, July 5, dates that coincide with the itinerary of the ecumenical visit that was postponed.

Speaking at Rumbek Airport July 2, Bishop Christian Carlassare described Cardinal Parolin’s trip as an effort by the Catholic Church to foster peace in South Sudan. 

“The visit doesn’t replace the visit of Pope Francis as planned because the Holy Father is really determined to visit the people of South Sudan,” Bishop Carlassare told journalists before leaving for Juba to take part in the visit by the Vatican Secretary of State.

He added in reference to the visit, “This is an institutional visit to encounter the President and the Vice President and the institutions of South Sudan to ensure closeness of the Catholic Church to the peace process that is in progress for lasting peace in South Sudan.”


Cardinal Parolin’s trip, the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese further said, “is the visit that can really encourage our institutions in the situation they are in to bring a message of unity to the people.”

This is a special moment that is so delicate for the country to build more consensus for the peace and unity we have been working for,” the Local Ordinary of Rumbek Diocese told journalists July 2.

The member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who was consecrated Bishop on March 25 looked forward to his own encounter with the Vatican-based Cardinal saying, “I will meet Cardinal Parolin about the plans we have in our Diocese and present all the plans we have ahead, especially putting our Diocese in order.” 

The Italian-born Bishop who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 added, “Some of the plans are in line with the journey of the universal Church like the journey of Synodality, which involves participation and communion among all Christians.”

Making reference to the planned Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Tanzania from July 10, Bishop Carlassare said, “I will also attend the meeting of AMECEA together with the Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan to see the journey of the other African countries in communion with the Church.”

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Meanwhile, also reacting to the visit of Cardinal Parolin to South Sudan, Social Communications Coordinator of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) said the trip confirms the closeness of the Vatican with the people of God in the East-Central African nation.

“It’s not that he is coming to cancel the visit of the Pope but to enhance and show the closeness of the Holy Father that he is still determined to visit,” Fr. John Gbemboyo told Journalists in Juba July 1.

Fr. Gbemboyo added, “We are not treating the coming of the Cardinal light because it’s the right hand of the Pope as well as following the countries where the Holy Father is supposed to be.”

The SCBC Communications Coordinator called for active participation in the visit of the Vatican official, saying, “All of us including the Churches are invited to come and welcome the Cardinal as we would welcome the Holy Father and the accompanying delegation.”

“This is because the Cardinal will take the message back to the other top religious leaders that the people of South Sudan are waiting for them,” the member of the Clergy of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio (CDTY) added.


The South Sudanese Catholic Priest continued, “Let us take this visit as an opportunity to prepare ourselves and to come in large numbers on that day to celebrate the holy mass and also pray for our journey to the future.”

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.