“Pope’s new house” in Juba: A sign of the Holy Father’s love for South Sudan
By Salvatore Cernuzio – Juba, South Sudan
The new Apostolic Nunciature of South Sudan will be located in the north of Juba, in an expanse of green next to the seminary donated by the Bishops’ Conference. It is “a gift of God” that consolidates relations between the Holy See and South Sudan, but above all it emphasizes "the Pope's love" for this country that he wants to visit soon.
In a ceremony on Thursday before religious and civil authorities, Cardinal Pietro Parolin blessed the foundation stone of the building designed by architect Pasquale Gandolfi from Bergamo, Italy.
Currently, the Nunciature is located in a building in Juba, owned by a private individual and rented. It is only a temporary arrangement while the Church waits for the new "house of the Pope," as Cardinal Parolin describes it.
The Vatican Secretary of State also spoke of it as "a sign of the will to consolidate relations between the Holy See and the Republic of South Sudan through an apostolic representation."
Strengthening communion between the Pope and local churches
"The role of the Nunciature is to strengthen the communion between the Pope and the bishops and the local churches, by fostering relations, fostering the commitment to peace, development, and the welfare of the people in the country where the Nunciature is present," the Cardinal said.
He further asked those present to pray that this project may soon come to fruition. "Thank you for possibility to share this moment of joy for you and all the people of South Sudan,” he added.
A "house" of prayer
For his part, Archbishop Hubertus Matheus Maria van Megen, Apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan and resident in Nairobi, spoke of "a historic day for the presence of the Catholic Church in South Sudan."
It is a wish fulfilled thanks to divine providence, which, he said, "pointed us to this beautiful suburban land," almost "a symbol of paradise in the middle of the city of Juba."
It "is not only a diplomatic representation, but also will be a house of God. All those who will live and work here will pray in a special way for the assistance of the Holy Spirit," Archbishop van Megen said.
"The role of the Nunciature," he added, "will be to ensure that the members will never fail to support its Head who is Christ, represented by the Holy Father Pope Francis at this particular moment in history... Let this Nunciature, then, be an expression of the love of the universal Church for the particular Church in South Sudan. An expression of Pope Francis' love for the people of South Sudan."
Also speaking on behalf of the government during the ceremony was Barnabas Marial Benjamin, Minister of Presidential Affairs, who stressed that the executive branch also applauds the work, which strengthens Church-State cooperation in South Sudan.
"This is great news for the people of South Sudan who are united in the Church" and "hope for Pope Francis' visit to this country,” he noted.
A brick from the Holy Door
After the Gospel reading, Cardinal Parolin then uncovered a glass case wrapped in a yellow-white Vatican City flag, to bless the foundation stone as a gospel sung was sung a cappella.
It was a brick locked in the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the 2000 Jubilee, which was declared by John Paul II. The brick was subsequently taken from the same Holy Door when it was opened by Pope Francis for the 2016 Jubilee of Mercy.