A woman holds a candle during Cardinal Parolin's visit to Bentiu A woman holds a candle during Cardinal Parolin's visit to Bentiu 

South Sudan: Bishop of Malakal praises ‘Pope’s closeness to IDPs’

The Bishop of Malakal says Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin’s visit to a South Sudan refugee camp shows Pope Francis’ and the Church’s care for those who have been forced from their homes by conflict and natural disasters.

By Devin Watkins

“The presence of Cardinal Parolin in the Diocese of Malakal in particular with the people who have been affected by many atrocities, by war, by natural disasters has shown the closeness of the Holy Father with the people of God.”

Bishop Stephen Nyodho Ador Majwok of Malakal offered that take on the visit made by the Vatican’s Secretary of State to the camp of Bentiu on Wednesday.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrated Mass in the camp for internally-displaced persons near the northern city of Bentiu, reminding those who live there that they are “always loved by God” despite the difficulties they face.

“Our history makes us cry out to the Lord, makes us lay before His altar the injustices, abuses, and persecutions that too many of us still suffer; but we know that this cry is heard by God and redeemed, a cry that He Himself will transform into a song of joy, if we know how to ask forgiveness for our persecutors and pray for those who hurt us."

Cardinal Parolin greets children in Bentiu camp
Cardinal Parolin greets children in Bentiu camp

Solidarity of the Church in daily suffering

After the Cardinal’s visit, the Bishop of Malakal told Vatican News’ Francesca Sabatinelli that the people in the Bentiu camp “will never forget it.”

“It will strengthen their faith and the Church. This means that the Catholic Church—Mother Church—is near to these people.”

Cardinal Parolin, he added, came “to show the solidarity of the Holy Father and the solidarity of the Universal Church with their suffering and their daily life.”

Forced from home by conflict and natural disasters

Many of the South Sudanese living in the Bentiu camp were forced there from their homes after civil strife broke out in 2013, and they number around 140,000 at the moment.

The Bishop of Malakal said some residents sought to return home, mostly within Unity State, after the Peace Agreement was signed in 2018.

However, some were forced to return to the camp after massive flooding struck parts of South Sudan in 2021.

“These people wanted to make their lives, raise their children, and live a dignified live,” said Bishop Ador Majwok. “But then natural disaster, as well as human-made disaster, made their lives vulnerable.”

The Bishop said many children in Bentiu camp lack proper education, which will likely lead to diminished opportunities in the future.

“It is good that Mother Church, in the person of His Eminence Cardinal Parolin, has come to visit and see the reality of the Church. So, he may also go and advocate for us and for these vulnerable people.”

Listen to the full interview
07 July 2022, 12:38