“Not an elevation for a single person”: South Sudanese Cardinal-designate

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of Juba in South Sudan during the July 10 press conference. Credit: CRN

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of Juba in South Sudan, one of the three Africans named Cardinals on July 9, has said that his elevation to Cardinal is for the people of people of God in a country searching for lasting peace, and not for his personal interests. 

“We would like to thank the Lord for having given us the gift of elevation,” Archbishop Ameyu told journalists in Juba on Monday, July 10, and continued, “(This) is not an elevation for a single person but it is for the whole Church.”

The 59-year-old Cardinal-designate further said, “Elevation by His Holiness Pope Francis has given us a challenge as a Church, a Church that is struggling to bring peace to our people.”

“The Holy Father has always seen our people with hope and that is why maybe he named me to the College of Cardinals,” the Catholic Archbishop whose transfer from Torit Diocese to Juba Archdiocese in December 2019 was met with resistance from a section of the Clergy and Laity of South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See said.

He continued, “The Holy Father has seen your faces, the faces of the people of God in South Sudan and would like to appreciate the hope that shines in our faces and through this election, we are put to the spotlight.”


“May the Lord strengthen us to search for peace in this country so that every time we receive news like this we may celebrate with peace being a reality for us here in South Sudan,” the South Sudanese Cardinal-designate said during the July 10 press conference.

He went on to recall the 12th independence anniversary of South Sudan that coincided with his being named Cardinal, and said, “The Church in South Sudan is happy for this gift on their Independence Day.”

Reflecting on the new role he is to take upon after the September 30 Consistory, Archbishop Ameyu said that Cardinals are servants “always ready to serve the people of God”.

“We thank God for having given us this opportunity so that we can also serve the Universal Church,” the Catholic Church leader who started his Episcopal Ministry in March 2019 as Bishop of South Sudan’s Torit Diocese said.

His transfer to Juba Archdiocese on 12 December 2019 was characterized by controversy that included multiple strongly-worded protest letters to the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Propaganda Fide.

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He received support from members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) that is constituted by Prelates from the seven Catholic Dioceses in South Sudan and the two in Sudan.

On 6 March 2020, Pope Francis reconfirmed his appointment for Juba Archdiocese, putting an end to controversies around politics of succession in the South Sudanese Metropolitan See.

Other Cardinals from Africa that Pope Francis named on July 9 include Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Tabora in Tanzania, and Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town in South Africa.

Catholic Bishops in Africa have congratulated the three African Cardinals-designate and expressed spiritual support for “the success of this new and noble mission”.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa July 10, the Secretary General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Fr. Rafael Simbine Junior says the Catholic Church leadership in Africa “is thrilled to share in the news” of the naming of three new Cardinals, who are part of the Catholic Church in Africa.


Kerbino Kuel Deng contributed to the writing of this article

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