“I am pleased now to announce to you that after evaluating diligently that entire situation, Pope Francis has confirmed Most Rev. Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla as the new Archbishop of Juba,” Msgr. Kulbokas stated.
The Vatican-based diplomat further disclosed that he had “duly informed His Grace and Archbishop Emeritus Paolino Lukudu Loro, MCCJ” about the Pope’s decision to reconfirm his earlier appointment of Bishop Ameyu.
He announced that “the date fixed for the installation of the new Archbishop” is Sunday, March 22 at 10 a.m., an event expected to take place at St. Teresa’s Cathedral, Kator in Juba.
At the Friday Press Conference, Msgr. Kulbokas further announced that he had constituted a committee to organize the March 22 installation ceremony.
“I have formed a committee, consisting of some parish priests, as well as some priests of the Archdiocese of Juba, who are holding administrative positions in this local Church,” the Vatican diplomat stated and added, “This committee will be headed by the Episcopal Vicar for the Clergy and Religious in the Archdiocese of Juba, Rev. Fr. Nicholas Kiri.”
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The controversy around the appointment of the Archbishop of Juba called to mind that of Nigeria’s Ahiara diocese where the December 2012 appointment of a Bishop from outside the dominant ethnic group of the diocese, the Mbaise, occasioned an uprising.
In the case of Ahiara, the protestors who included a significant number of native priests and lay faithful seem to have had their say and way. The candidate, Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, was never allowed to set his foot in the diocese. He was ordained Bishop in May 2013 outside Ahiara diocese and eventually wrote to Pope Francis asking to resign in February 2018. The Holy Father accepted the Bishop’s resignation “relieved him of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Ahiara.”
Just yesterday, March 5, the Pontiff appointed Bishop Okpaleke as the Local Ordinary of the newly created diocese of Ekwulobia in south eastern Nigeria.
In the case of Juba Archdiocese, the candidate, already a Bishop but not part of the dominant ethnic group of Juba, the Bari, has received support from the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), which is constituted by Prelates from the seven dioceses in South Sudan and the two in Sudan.
A section of the laity have also criticized the actions of those protesting Bishop Ameyu’s appointment, with the leadership of the Bari community in South Sudan distancing itself from the authors of the protest letters.
A Juba-based Catholic professional told ACI Africa that the attempts to reject the appointment of Bishop Ameyu as Archbishop of Juba demonstrated “that South Sudan society is really divided on tribal lines” and that the controversy does paint the world’s newest nation in bad light, a nation that has had, together with its sister nation of Sudan, the significant reputation of producing “two International Saints namely St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Daniel Comboni.”