Thanks for “bold decision” to Visit South Sudan: Catholic Archbishop to Pope Francis

Pope Francis greeting congregation at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum on 5 February 2023 just before presiding over Holy Mass. Credit: ACI Africa

The “bold decision” of Pope Francis to realize the ecumenical visit in South Sudan is an indication of the “solidarity with us”, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of the country’s Juba Archdiocese has said. 

In his message of gratitude to Pope Francis at the end of the Papal Mass in Juba at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum, Archbishop Ameyu thanked the Holy Father taking a decision that can “restore tranquility in this country”.

“I thank you very much for taking this bold decision to visit our country, which is suffering due to the consequences of civil war,” he said.

The South Sudanese Catholic Archbishop added, “Your Holiness, I believe that your visit is a sign of solidarity with us and shows the desire to restore tranquility in this country.”

“I also thank the Almighty God for having allowed this historic visit to happen in our time,” he continued in the message he read out on behalf of the Catholic Church leaders in Sudan and South Sudan under the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC).


Archbishop Ameyu said Pope Francis visited the nation “to urge our political leaders to work for peace and for the common good of Sudan and South Sudan.”

He acknowledged with appreciation the concern for peace that the Holy Father has for South Sudan. “You have demonstrated this concern previously in your repeated calls for reconciliation between the warring parties,” the Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese said.

He went on to recall the 11 April 2019 dramatic gesture when Pope Francis knelt and kissed the feet of President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar among other South Sudanese political leaders.

“In April 2019, for example, you hosted South Sudanese leaders for a two-day spiritual retreat in the Vatican, during which you urged them to strengthen the country’s faltering peace process,” Archbishop Ameyu recalled, adding, “Amazingly, you even knelt down to kiss their feet as a symbol of humility and service of humanity.”

The Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See said he found it regrettable that “discouraging that the peace process has moved forward so slowly”.

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He said that Catholic Bishops in the world’s youngest nation share in the Holy Father’s “fatherly concern for the restoration of peace in our country.”

He highlighted the negative impact of the civil war that started just over two years after South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in July 2011 following a referendum.

“War has brought the indiscriminate destruction of human lives and the destruction of assets such as homes and livestock. We have experienced looting, raping, economic deterioration, and the displacement of countless people, many of whom have fled to neighboring countries,” Archbishop Ameyu said about South Sudan’s civil war that has continued since December 2013.

He continued, “1with such negative impacts of civil war upon our innocent people, one can say: it is better to have peace than to have war because war destroys whereas peace builds.”

Despite the challenges occasioned by the protracted civil war, the people of God in South Sudan have made progress in their relationship with God, the Catholic Archbishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in March 2019 as the Bishop of South Sudan’s Torit Diocese said. 


“Though we have lived through tough historic periods, we have celebrated one hundred years of faith,” he said, and added, “On the one hand, our Church has produced two Saints: St. Daniel Comboni and St. Josephine Bakhita, and on the other hand, the local Church has witnessed to the faith through martyrdom.”

He continued, “Among those martyred during the first war, known as ‘Anyanya One’ (which lasted from 1956-1972), were Mr. William Deng, Fr. Saturlino Ohure and Fr. Leopoldo Anyuar.”

The South Sudanese Archbishop recalled those he described as “martyrs of the current civil war”, including Sr. Veronika Teresa Rackova, a member of the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit who was killed on 16 May 2016 while serving in the Catholic Diocese of Yei. 

Other martyrs in the most recent history of South Sudan, he said, are Sr. Mary Abbud and Sr. Regina Roba, members of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SHS), who were murdered on 16 August 16, 2021, while they were on their way back to Juba from the centenary celebration of Our Lady of Assumption Loa Parish of Torit Diocese. 

“Your Holiness, our country is truly suffering due to the civil war. Therefore, we are looking for peace and reconciliation,” Archbishop Ameyu said in his message of gratitude at the end of the Papal Mass held on the grounds of the Mausoleum of Dr. John Garang, the liberation leader known as the “father of South Sudan”.

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He clarified, “The peace which our country so badly needs is not a purely human peace based on personal interest, but rather the peace of Jesus, who says, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.’”

“Your Holiness, once again, we thank you and assure you of our prayers for your health as you return to Rome,” the Archbishop whose Metropolitan See hosted the ecumenical visit that Pope Francis undertook alongside the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev. Dr. Iain Greenshields said.

“May this great event of your visit bring blessings and lasting peace to our country,” Archbishop Ameyu said at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the last event of Pope Francis’ three-day ecumenical visit to South Sudan.

At the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father urged Christians in the East-Central African country to make “a decisive contribution to changing history” by refusing to repay evil with evil.

“In the name of Jesus and of his Beatitudes, let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge, in order to take up those of prayer and charity,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

He added, “I gather here with you in the name of Jesus Christ, the God of love, the God who achieved peace through his cross. … Jesus, crucified in the lives of so many of you, in so many people in this country; Jesus, the risen Lord, the victor over evil and death.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.