South Sudan: Church leaders encouraging hope as a nation awaits Pope Francis.
Fr Mbikoyezu John Gbemboyo – Juba, South Sudan.
South Sudan’s Christian leaders brought together various Churches in Juba to pray for the health of Pope Francis and the now postponed Apostolic visit of Pope Francis.
An occasion to explain the postponement
According to organisers, the ecumenical prayers were also an occasion for Church leaders to explain the postponed visit of Pope Francis. It was also an opportunity for the Church leaders to publicly demonstrate their resolve for unity and solidarity as they keep hope alive for the Pope’s visit. The leaders took turns encouraging South Sudanese, especially those who worked tirelessly over the last few months in preparation for the visit.
What God started in Rome
In his opening remarks, the General Overseer of Sudan Pentecostal Church (SPC), Dr Isaiah Majok Dau, told congregants, “I still believe that the three leaders will come to South Sudan to cement what God started to do in Rome. Don’t give up on hope no matter what happens because the situation in the country can be changed for the better,” he said, adding, “Do not lose faith in God.”
Dr Majok referenced a time when the Sudanese lived together in relative peace and harmony. He said he remained convinced peace would ultimately return to South Sudan.
Unity attracts God’s favour
Basing his preaching on the Gospel of John Chapter 17, Presiding Bishop of the Africa Inland Church (AIC), James Lagos Alexander, spoke of the “the power of unity” in the Churches. That unity, he emphasised, needed to be promoted.
Bishop Alexander stressed that “unity attracts God’s favour and blessing upon us. Unity leads to greater productivity, and it leads us to sustainability,” he said. Even South Sudan’s independence, he reminded the congregation, was born from the power of unity demonstrated during the referendum of 2011.
“We must accompany our quest for peace with prayers and love of neighbour to open the doors for South Sudanese to exist as one. When we loved one another, we were strong. Love and prayer gave us the South Sudan that we have today,” he said.
The Bishop gave antidotes for overcoming disunity. What was tearing the nation apart, he said, was a spirit of bitterness and a refusal to forgive.
Praying for Pope Francis
In his concluding remarks, the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, Stephen Ameyu Martin, underlined that the “Church and political leaders of South Sudan needed to be lovers of humanity for the country to prosper.” Archbishop Ameyu reiterated that the visit of Pope Francis had not been cancelled but postponed. He encouraged South Sudanese to continue praying for a speedy recovery of the Pope.
South Sudan’s weekend ecumenical prayer gathering was organised by the Churches’ Steering Committee for the Apostolic Visit under the auspices of the South Sudan Council of Churches. The event was also attended by several denominations, politicians and government officials led by Hon Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin Bil, Chairman of the High-Level Steering Papal Committee.
The postponed visit
The historic ecumenical pilgrimage for peace to South Sudan was to have been undertaken next month from 5 July to 7 July as a joint visit by Pope Francis, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.
According to Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, the Pope’s doctors requested the postponement.