World Immersed in Pagan Culture with “own idols, gods”: Pope Francis to Jesuits in S.Sudan

Pope Francis meets with Jesuits in South Sudan on 4 February 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

During the fraternal conversation that Pope Francis had with members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Juba, South Sudan, the Holy Father cautioned against “pagan culture”, which he said “has its own idols and gods” and that it has pervaded the world, the Jesuit-run journal, La Civiltà Cattolica reported Thursday, February 16.

Pope Francis held a private meeting with Jesuits in the Apostolic Nunciature in Juba, South Sudan, on February 4 as part of the program and itinerary that the Vatican had unveiled early December for the realization of the Holy Father’s previously postponed trip.

Pope Francis who had arrived in Juba the previous day from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said, “Pagan values today matter more and more: money, reputation, power. We must be aware that the world is immersed in a pagan culture that has its own idols and gods.”

“Money, power and fame are things that St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises points to as the fundamental sins,” Pope Francis told members of the Jesuits in Eastern Africa Province.

Credit: ACI Africa


The Holy Father who is a Jesuit said that his “fear is about the very generalized pagan culture” and added, “St. Ignatius’ election on poverty – to the point of making the professed take a special vow – is a choice against paganism, against the god of money.”

“Today ours is also a pagan culture of war, where what counts is how many weapons you have,” he lamented, adding, “These are all forms of paganism.”

“Let’s not be so naive as to think that Christian culture is the culture of a united party, where all gather together in order to be strong. In that way the Church would be a political party. No!” Pope Francis said on the second day of his ecumenical trip to South Sudan alongside the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.

He continued, “Christian culture is the ability to interpret, discern and live the Christian message that our paganism does not want to understand, does not want to accept.”

“We have come to the point that if one thinks about the demands of Christian life in today’s culture, one believes that they are a form of extremism,” he told his confreres ministering in the world’s youngest nation, urging them to learn to “move forward in a pagan context, which is not that different from that of the first centuries.”

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In his conversation with the Jesuits in South Sudan, Pope Francis also reflected on his 1 November 2022 virtual dialogue during which he engaged young people drawn from various Catholic Universities in Africa in view of stirring their full participation in the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality.

Pope Francis during the virtual dialogue with African Catholic students on Tuesday, November 1. Credit: PACTPAN

“Last November, I had a meeting with African students via videoconference for almost an hour and a half. I was impressed by the intelligence of these young women and men. I really liked their way of thinking,” the Holy Father recalled.

He added, “Africa needs politicians who are people like this: good, intelligent, who make their countries grow. Politicians who do not allow themselves to be distorted by corruption, above all. Political corruption leaves no room for the country to grow; it destroys it. It affects my heart.”

“You cannot serve two masters; in the Gospel this is clear. You either serve God or you serve money. Interesting that it does not say the devil, but money. Honest politicians must be formed. That is also your task,” the Holy Father said.


Reflecting on how his Encyclical Letter, Laudato si’, is perceived in Africa, the Holy Father said, “Amazonia and Congo have oxygen reserves for the world. And both are exploited areas. Africa is even more so because of the minerals in which it is rich.”

Credit: ACI Africa

“A discourse on creation care is important for both countries,” he further said, adding, “The Jesuits in Kinshasa asked me if there will be a synod on the Congo, as there was for the Amazon. I replied that in that Synod and in the post-synodal exhortation there are already the elements and criteria that are useful for Congo as well.”

He encouraged Jesuits in South Sudan to be “brave and tender. Don’t forget that Ignatius was a great one for tenderness.”

He underscored the need for Jesuits in Eastern Africa to “be close to the people and the Lord. The basic attitudes of the Lord are: closeness, mercy and tenderness. Closeness is clear. Institutions without closeness and tenderness will also do good, but they are pagan. Jesuits must be different.”

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In an interview with ACI Africa a day after the private encounter with the Holy Father in Juba, the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Eastern Africa Province described the February 4 meeting with the Holy Father as an “uplifting moment.”

Credit: ACI Africa

“It was a very nice moment and my head is still spinning from that encounter; it was amazing,” Fr. Kizito Kiyimba said at the conclusion of the Papal Mass on the grounds of Dr. John Garang Mausoleum.

The Jesuits who attended the meeting will live on the experience gained from the meeting with Pope Francis, Fr. Kiyimba further said, adding that the encounter "was conversational on the personal things, but sometimes he was teaching as Pope, so there are things there that will be useful for everyone.” 

The Holy Father was “relaxed, personal,” the Ugandan-born Jesuit Priest told ACI Africa during the February 5 interview, adding, “We were privileged to be encouraged by our own brother who is a Pope both in his category as a Pope and also as a Jesuit.”

“We felt that we can now continue with our mission here in Eastern Africa as Jesuits having met the Pope," the Provincial of the Jesuits in Eastern Africa said, adding that the encounter with the Holy Father makes them feel "reinvigorated".

Meanwhile, during his meeting with Jesuits in DRC and South Sudan, Pope Francis addressed once again the question of whether he will resign the papacy, according to the February 16 Jesuit-run journal, La Civiltà Cattolica.

“I believe that the Pope’s ministry is ‘ad vitam.’ I see no reason why it should not be so,” the Holy Father said during his private meeting with Jesuits in Kinshasa-based Apostolic Nunciature on February 2. 

Repeating information he had revealed in a prior interview, Pope Francis said that he signed a resignation letter two months after his election as Pope in case he should become incapacitated.

Credit: Vatican Media

He said that he gave the letter to the Vatican’s Secretary of State at the time, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, but that he does not know now where the letter is.

“However, this does not at all mean that resigning popes should become, let’s say, ‘the fashion,’ a normal thing. Benedict had the courage to do it because he did not feel like going on because of his health. I for the moment do not have that on my agenda,” Pope Francis said.

“Think that the ministry of the great patriarchs is always for life,” he went on to say, adding, “The historical tradition is important.”

The 86-year-old Pontiff, who again addressed the question of his possible resignation in his private meeting with Jesuit Priests in South Sudan also said that if the Church listened to the gossip, it should change Popes every six months.

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