Vatican confirms Pope’s visit to S. Sudan

By Mary Poni

The Vatican Embassy in Juba has finally announced the new schedule visit of the Catholic Holy Father Pope Francis to South Sudan on 3rd to 5th February 2023 after visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo from 31st January to 3rd February 2023.

The announcement was made yesterday by the Vatican Charge D’ Affaires at a press conference at the South Sudan Council of Churches in Juba.

Vatican press office and the Apostolic Nunciature in Juba affirmed to the media that the coming of His Holiness Pope Francis to the country, the first of its kind is a sure deal and a historical visit after the country’s leaders visited Rome for a two days peace retreat in April 2019.

Monsignor Ionut Paul, the Vatican Charge De’ Affaires in South Sudan, affirmed that Pope will be visiting the city of Kinshasa together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Ecumenical Pilgrimage of peace to Juba, South Sudan from 3rd to 5th February 2023.

“The Apostolic Nunciature (Holy See-Vatican Embassy) in South Sudan is pleased with the acceptance of the invitation by their respective heads of States and Bishops, His Holiness, Pope Francis will make the announced apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan from the 31st of January to 5rd of February 2023” he said.

After visiting the DRC Pope Francis will then land at Juba International Airport on the evening of Friday 3rd February 2023. Thereafter a visit to the office of the President at the Presidential Palace J1, meeting with the Vice Presidents, meeting with other authorities, civil society and diplomats.

On the second day of his arrival, Saturday at 9AM, he will be meeting the Priests, Bishops, Deacons, and Seminarians including others at the Cathedral of St. Tereza in Juba and followed by the private meetings with the members of the Society of Jesus at the Apostol Moncheites.

Monsignor Ionut stated that the Pope will also be meeting with the IDPs in the afternoon in Freedom Hall, followed by the prayer at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum at 6 pm.

Meanwhile on Sunday 5th at 8: 45 AM, there would be a holy mass at John Garang Museum and the final ceremony at Juba International Airport would be at 11 am before his departure at around midday.

The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the government and the people of South Sudan including the country’s Christian population and other religious citizenry are extremely delighted with the anticipated Papal visit.

“At least His Holiness the Pope has officially announced to the people that he is going to be in the country as it was told by the Nunciature representative” Marial said, adding that “it is a great news for the government and for the people of South Sudan”.

The Presidential Affairs minister who was speaking yesterday at the press conference for Vatican Embassy announcement of the Pope’s coming said the government will do all that it can, in order for His Holiness Pope to make a safe visit and stay in the country.

“We would like to extend our appreciation to His Holiness the Pope for his wonderful decision with the church leaderships by visiting South Sudan at the time that the country needed support especially in peace, humanitarian issues, and spiritual strength of the people of this country” he said.

Dr. Marial said they (government) have finished some of the projects in preparation to welcome the guest.

According to Barnaba, most of the preparatory works has been done especially the renovation of the Catholic Cathedral in Kator, the Anglican Cathedral in Mobil and they are currently working on the Presbyterian Church in Jebel.

Meanwhile Dr. John Garang Mausoleum has been completely renovated, redesigned and ready and stuck for the visit of the Pope.

In July at the request of his doctors, the Holy Father was forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, which was planned for 2nd to 7th July 2022.

 The doctors reportedly advised Pope Francis to postponed his earlier scheduled papal visit in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee, by then.

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