During the encounter, Francis heard testimony about the lives and ministries of Sister Mary Daniel Abud and Sister Regina Roba, who were killed in a violent attack in South Sudan in 2021.
Many priests and religious, he said, “have been victims of violence and attacks in which they lost their lives. In a very real way, they offered their lives for the sake of the Gospel.”
“Their closeness to their brothers and sisters is a marvelous testimony that they bequeath to us, a legacy that invites us to carry forward their mission,” he said.
Pope Francis met with bishops, priests, and religious in St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba, South Sudan, on Feb. 4, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis also highlighted the example of St. Daniele Comboni, a missionary and the first Catholic bishop of central Africa, who died in Sudan in 1881.
With his missionary brothers, Comboni “carried out a great work of evangelization in this land,” the pope said. “He used to say that a missionary must be ready to do anything for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. We need courageous and generous souls ready to suffer and die for Africa.”
According to the Vatican, there are 7 million Catholics, 300 priests, and 253 religious brothers and sisters in South Sudan. The ratio of Catholics to priests is more than 24,000 Catholics for every one priest.
In his speech, Francis encouraged the priests, seminarians, and religious brothers and sisters of South Sudan to intercede for their people.
He quoted from a 1991 speech by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini to explain that interceding “does not mean simply ‘praying for someone,’ as we so often think. Etymologically it means ‘to step into the middle,’ to be willing to walk into the middle of a situation.”
Pope Francis greets Bishop Christian Carlassare and youth of the Diocese of Rumbek outside St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba, South Sudan on Feb. 4, 2023. Vatican Media