Cardinal Pietro Parolin in the IDP camp in Bentiu Cardinal Pietro Parolin in the IDP camp in Bentiu 

South Sudanese ‘full of joy’ for Cardinal Parolin’s visit

As Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin wraps up his visit to South Sudan, a Comboni missionary expresses the joy people have felt on receiving a sign of Pope Francis’ closeness.

By Devin Watkins

“The joy and the hope of receiving Pope Francis in South Sudan has not been lost.”

Fr. Okot, a Comboni missionary, offered that assessment of the Vatican Secretary of State’s trip to the African nation.

Speaking to Vatican News’ Francesca Sabatinelli, Fr. Okot said the people were initially quite disappointment to hear that the Pope was forced to postpone his Apostolic Journey to South Sudan due to treatment for severe knee pain.

Sign of Pope’s paternal care

Yet, he said, Pope Francis sent a concrete sign of his concern in the person of Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“I think it was a prophetic sign of hope for the Pope to show his paternal care and pastoral care of South Sudan, not only to postpone his coming but also to send somebody and deliver the message which he himself would have delivered to South Sudan.”

Fr. Okot added that he saw feelings of joy, celebration, and happiness on people’s faces as they welcomed the Cardinal to their country.

Almost all the Bishops of South Sudan were present at the airport to welcome the Secretary of State.

Bentiu camp a ‘reflection of other parts of South Sudan’

As Cardinal Parolin visited the internally-displaced persons camp in Bentiu, he was able to witness the “terrible conditions in which people are living”, said Fr. Okot.

His words there will hopefully shine the international spotlight on the plight of those living there.

“I feel that whatever Cardinal Parolin has seen there—not only his words—will call the attention of the international community to pay attention to the situation in Bentiu, which is just the reflection of other parts of South Sudan.”

Fr. Okot expressed his hopes that the Cardinal’s visit will invite the government of South Sudan to “stop violence and give our people peace, hope, freedom, and security.”

In conclusion, the Comboni priest thanked the Pope for his constant care for people on the peripheries.

“Pope Francis has always shown that he walks with us on our way of faith, on our way of life,” he said. “I would also like to thank Cardinal Parolin for coming, to show that the Church is always thinking of us.”

Listen to the full interview
08 July 2022, 17:33