Monday, January 30, 2023
Today, Solidarity with South Sudan will sponsor a prayer service in English and in French at 5.30 p.m. at the Basilica of S. Bartolomeo All’Isola (Piazza S. Bartolomeo all’Isola, 22 – 00186 Rome) to invoke God’s blessing upon the Holy Father Francis’ upcoming apostolic visit to DR Congo and South Sudan from 31 January to 5 February. [See attachment]
The planned ecumenical visit to South Sudan to be undertaken by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields next week is a “once in life” opportunity from God for the realization of unity in South Sudan, a Catholic Priest involved in the preparations for the February 3-5 trip has said. In an interview with ACI Africa, Wednesday, January 25, the General Coordinator for the Pope’s Visit to South Sudan, Fr. Samuel Abe, said, “The Pope is opening his hands and voice to God for the people of South Sudan to be one.”
“Our conflict will not end if we don’t unite our hearts,” Fr. Abe said, adding that the ecumenical visit “is an opportunity that God has given us once in life”. “If we don’t reconcile ourselves to live in love and unity we will continue to be in problems,” the South Sudanese Catholic Priest said, and added, “We should always unite ourselves so that we can express ourselves as daughters and sons of God created in his own image.”
He described the violent conflicts in the world’s youngest nation as “this evil that is engulfing us” and advocated for unity, imploring, “May each one of us in the family and the community be one”. “Our last resort as Christians in this country is the coming of the Pope. We have been praying so much and God has listened that this time the Holy Father should come and share with us our joys, suffering, and difficulties,” Fr. Abe told ACI Africa during the January 25 interview.
On 1 December 2022, officials of the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis’ rescheduled visit would begin in DRC from January 31, and conclude with an “Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace in South Sudan”. In his first leg of the two-African-nation trip, the Holy Father will first travel to Kinshasa, where he will meet with the country’s authorities, victims of the conflict in the Eastern part of the country and representatives of charitable organizations, celebrate Holy Mass, meet with young people, Catholic Bishops, and Jesuits in DRC before heading to South Sudan.
In the January 25 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Abe highlighted preparations ahead of the ecumenical visit, saying, “We received an advance team from the Vatican in different capacities including those in charge of protocol and close protection of the Holy Father and the media.”
“We have moved around with them with the intention of seeing for themselves the level of preparation and the preparedness of the people,” he told ACI Africa, adding, “They have seen that the country has good work to receive the Holy Father.”
“What remains now is our preparation to receive the Pope,” the General Coordinator for the Pope’s Visit to South Sudan said, and added, “Our people have prepared their hearts so that when the Pope comes, he will find us as one people.”
The South Sudanese Catholic Priest further said, “We are expecting the next team on Sunday (January 29) who will be coming with the equipment such as an outside broadcasting studio and mobile vehicle for the Holy Father to use since the Holy Father needs to interact and be simple with the people.”
South Sudan being part of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), Fr. Abe said, “we have extended our invitations to our member Churches in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia and beyond.”
[Patrick Juma Wani – ACI Africa]