South Sudan: Bishops express hope for renewal during Pope’s July visit
By Vatican News staff writer
As the Church draws closer to the celebration of the resurrection of Our Lord at Easter, the bishops of Sudan and South Sudan have urged the faithful to take advantage of this time to pray and meditate on the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis in July.
In a joint pastoral letter for all the dioceses in both countries, the bishops highlighted the solemn nature of Easter, as a celebration of faith and renewal in preparation for the Holy Father’s Apostolic Journey.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Juba, the South Sudanese capital, from 5 – 7 July. Before that, he will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2 – 5 July.
Easter: a time of resurrection amid challenges
“Easter celebration is our resurrection from senselessness, from hopelessness to a new hope in Christ, to a new beginning marked by the joy of the risen Christ who transmits newness of life,” said the bishops in their later dated 11 April.
However, the celebrations are mixed with feelings of blessings amid a difficult year, with both countries still challenged by civil conflicts, droughts, floods and displacement of people.
Many, the bishops noted, “still die due to armed conflict, women, children and elderly killed, and even the sick killed in their sickbed.” Also, “many of our brothers and sisters are still in IDPs and refugee camps and others are still in exile. They live with uncertainty about whether they will ever reunite with their families.”
Furthermore, “large areas of our country suffer from floods and as the rainy season begins, fear looms in their hearts as to whether the floods will at all subside,” the prelates said with concern.
As the country continues to confront these challenges, the bishops express hope that the political leaders, “will not take us back to war so as to eliminate the humanitarian crisis and pave the way for justice, peace and reconciliation.”
Pope’s July Visit
The April 11 pastoral letter comes after an Extra-Ordinary meeting of the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference in Juba that took place from March 21 to 23, to prepare for the papal visit to South Sudan.
The Bishops note that Pope Francis is coming to the country to confirm the faith of the faithful and bring a message of peace and reconciliation.
“The Pope is visiting South Sudan, to confirm us in faith, as St. Peter did to his colleagues the Apostles,” they said. “His visit will communicate peace which is the first gift of the risen Christ to his disciples: ‘peace be with you’”
The bishops further recall the Pope’s touching gesture of kissing the feet of the political leaders when he hosted them for a two-day spiritual retreat in the Vatican in April 2019, and his compassionate appeal for peace in the country.
“We hope [the Pope’s] visit will renew us, as we are still shaken by forces of violence, death and by the evil of ethnic divisions within our Church and society,” the Bishops said.