Missionaries Have Fled for “fear for their lives”: Catholic Bishop in South Sudan Laments

Bishop Alex Lodiong Sakor of Yei Diocese in South Sudan. Credit: Kerbino Kuel Deng/ACI Africa

Catholic Missionaries have fled South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Yei amid insecurity, the Local Ordinary has told ACI Africa in an interview.

In the September 1 interview, Bishop Alex Lodiong Sakor Eyobo lamented the fleeing away of the missionaries from Yei Diocese to other mission territories, adding that only a dozen Catholic Priests are ministering in his vast Episcopal See, all of them Clergy of the South Sudanese Diocese.

“We are very few; the Clergy are very few. The missionaries who were working with us are no longer there because they fear for their lives; some of them went and joined the refugees in Uganda; some returned to their headquarters,” Bishop Lodiong lamented.

He further lamented, “We remain only the local Clergy and the local clergy are very few; only 12 Priests working in a very big Diocese.”

The South Sudanese Catholic Bishop who spoke to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the unveiling of the logo for the yearlong Eucharistic Congress and Golden Jubilee celebration of “Sudan and South Sudan hierarchy” went on to explain the risk of ministering in Yei Diocese that measures 46,000 km² with an estimated population of 231,950 Catholics, representing 49.1 percent of the population, according to 2020 statistics.


“Insecurity is still there; you move at your own risk,” he said, and giving the example of himself, added, “When I got ordained Bishop last year, I decided that I wanted to move everywhere and indeed, I moved. Thank God I moved without any problem; we move but at risk because anything can happen any time.”

The 52-year-old South Sudanese Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in May 2022 continued, “My Diocese is struggling in a sense that due to the war of 2016, a number of things have been vandalized, particularly infrastructures of service in the Diocese.” 

“Schools, health centers, and Priests’ houses and even some churches are all vandalized, some of them destroyed because of the war of 2016, because it intensified in the area more than other parts of the country,” he said.

The Catholic Church leader continued, “Conditions of living are not easy in terms of the economy because there is no money; people working in the civil service don’t have much money to earn; they cannot produce much because of these insurgencies around; they cannot cultivate much because of fear in their villages.”

The highlighted challenges notwithstanding, Bishop Lodiong said, the faith of the people of God in his Episcopal See remains “very strong”.

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“The faith is very strong, thank God; it is faith that is sustaining people amidst these social, economic, and political problems in the area of the Diocese,” he said, and called upon the 12 members of the Clergy ministering in the South Sudanese Diocese to “be resilient, hopeful, patient, and work hard to animate more vocations by the way we live.”

“When we live our lives well, more vocations will come,” the Local Ordinary of Yei Diocese who celebrated 22 years of Priestly Ministry on June 24 further said, adding, “Let’s not be overwhelmed by the challenges that we are facing; let’s do the work that Christ has entrusted to us and we do it very well and God will add more Priests to come.” 

Bishop Lodiong further encouraged the faithful to “support your Priests; they are doing very well, thank God.”

He lauded the generous attitude of the people of God under his pastoral care, saying, “In my experience of one year, whenever I make a call to our people to mobilize, they are ready to do it despite their poverty.”

The South Sudanese Catholic Bishop appealed to partners to continue reaching out to the people of God in Yei Diocese, “and the whole of South Sudan, particularly in the affected areas.”


Kerbino Kuel Deng is a South Sudanese journalist who is passionate about Church communication. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.