A South Sudanese woman at a Mass celebrated by the Pope in Juba A South Sudanese woman at a Mass celebrated by the Pope in Juba  (Vatican Media)

Ethiopian Cardinal: May the leaders of South Sudan hear the Pope's appeal for peace

The Cardinal Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, reflects on the Pope’s recent journey to neighbouring South Sudan. The Lord has listened to their prayers, he says but will politicians?

By Joseph Tulloch and Francesca Sabatinelli

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, was at the Pope’s side for the duration of his recent trip to South Sudan, which borders his own country of Ethiopia.

In the South Sudanese capital of Juba, he spoke to Vatican News about the Pope’s appeal for peace, saying that the Lord would listen to the prayers of the nation, and expressing his hope that political leaders would too.

Also discussed in the interview were the simplicity of the Pope’s visit, and the importance of collaboration between different Churches in the region.

The Pope’s appeal for peace

“When the Pope spoke of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and coexistence,” said Cardinal Souraphiel, “I heard that the people applauded very loudly.”

“They want to have a normal life,” he said, “a normal school, they want to be able to play. They spoke of all this to the Pope and asked him to pray for them: this touched me very much. I believe that the Lord will hear them, and all the saints and all the martyrs who have suffered here will help too. I believe the Lord will hear their prayers, their tears.”

The question, he said, is whether South Sudan’s political leaders listen too.

A simple visit

Cardinal Souraphiel also stressed the impact that the Pope’s simplicity had made on him.

“His simplicity touched me greatly,” he said. “He came as a simple man and with this simplicity he also made this appeal, again, to the civil leaders of this new country, South Sudan.”

He suggested that this simplicity had also made an impression on the political authorities in South Sudan.

“Four years ago, the Pope invited them to the Vatican for a spiritual retreat together,” he said. “He kissed their feet and said: 'You have the responsibility to be close to your people, not to show power, but service, as good shepherds.' And that was really appreciated.”

Churches together

The Cardinal went on to emphasise the “special importance” of the ecumenical nature of the Pope’s visit, which saw him travelling in the company of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

It was also important, he said, that he himself had come as a representative of the Church in Ethiopia, showing support for its neighbour. “We came,” said Cardinal Souraphiel, “to be with them and to show them that we are with you, we pray for you.”

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07 February 2023, 12:34