|The postponed ecumenical trip to South Sudan that is to be undertaken by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, is among the deliberations at the ongoing Plenary Assembly of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), a member of the Conference has said.
In an interview with ACI Africa Friday, October 21, the Bishop of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese made reference to the Holy Father’s September 13 conversation with reporters on the flight from Rome to Kazakhstan during which Pope Francis said he was in contact with Archbishop Welby and Rev. Greenshields in view of realizing their ecumenical visit to the world’s youngest nation in February 2023.
A Plenary Assembly of members of an Episcopal Conference, Bishop Christian Carlassare said, “is always an experience of communion where the Bishops will report and share about life in their respective Dioceses and come up with new programs and strategies aiming at the spiritual good of the faithful; it is pastoral by nature.”
Turning his attention to the SCBC weeklong Plenary Assembly taking place in the Archdiocese of Khartoum in Sudan, Bishop Carlassare said, “Beside some necessary administrative issues, the Bishops will reflect on the long-awaited possible visit of the Holy Father.”
In the program that the Holy See published on May 28, Pope Francis’ 37th Apostolic Visit abroad was to begin in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa on July 2, and conclude on July 7 in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.
On June 10, Matteo Bruni, the Holy See Press Office Director, announced the postponement “with regret” of the Holy Father’s third trip to Africa. He apologized to authorities of the two African nations for having to postpone the six-day trip.
On June 12, Pope Francis said he was praying to reschedule the Apostolic trip to DRC and the ecumenical visit to South Sudan “as soon as possible”.
On June 13, the Holy Father who was speaking at the start of his audience with members of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall reiterated his intention to reschedule his African trip.
On July 2, the day he was previously scheduled to arrive in South Sudan, Pope Francis sent a video message urging the people of God in DRC and South Sudan not to let themselves “be robbed of hope” despite his decision to postpone his pastoral trip to the two African nations.
On July 5, Archbishop Welby and Greenshields assured the people of God in South Sudan that their ecumenical pilgrimage that was postponed would be realized.
In an interview with Radio Bakhita that was reported on September 20, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of Juba Archdiocese in South Sudan said that the Papal ecumenical visit was awaiting the Holy See’s “official announcement” following the mention by the Holy Father that he was in contact with Archbishop Welby and Rev. Greenshields about the ecumenical trip.
“As a Church in South Sudan we will have this communicated to us when the time comes,” Archbishop Ameyu said.
The Church will continue with preparations “to receive the Holy Father and the other Church leaders,” the Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Torit Diocese further said, and added, “We will announce to you the coming of the Holy Father when time comes through the mass media.”
In the October 21 interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Carlassare spoke about other items on the agenda of SCBC members during their October 19-25 Plenary Assembly in Khartoum.
During the SCBC Plenary Assembly, he said, “we will plan to strengthen formation in our Seminaries and for lay pastoral agents, Catechists in particular, especially after the letter of Pope Francis Antiquum Ministerium.”
“The Bishops will also share about the first phase of the Diocesan synods in preparation for the second and third phases,” the member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 said.
The Catholic Bishop reflected about the situation in the world today and said that he found it regrettable that there was more division than fraternity. He advocated for the spirit of fraternity, neighborliness and understanding.
“In a world that is always more polarized and divided, let the Christian community be a yeast of brotherhood and unity,” the Italian-born Bishop who has been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese since his consecration on March 25 said.
He continued, “There are too many conflicts and wars around. Too often we get used to seeing others as enemies; we fight them with our secret weapons to defeat them.”
“But in order to defeat your enemy you have to know and understand him. And when you reach that level of understanding your neighbor, he is an enemy no more, but a friend,” Bishop Carlassare said, adding, “The best way to win a war, it is not to start it at all.”
The Bishop who traveled to Khartoum from Juba for the ongoing SCBC Plenary Assembly after a five-day visit to the Nairobi-based financial hub of his Episcopal See looked back at the October 13-17 stay.
“It was an occasion to be in touch with the important work of fund-raising, logistics and administration done on the behalf of the Diocese of Rumbek by the staff of Bethany House,” Bishop Carlassare told ACI Africa October 21.
Bethany House in Nairobi, he said, is a premise that “was established by Late Bishop Cesare Mazzolari in time of conflict to make operations in South Sudan possible. And the staff of Bethany house are until now committed to that same purpose to facilitate evangelization and human promotion within the territory of our Diocese.”
“I have a strong understanding that the ministry of the Bishop has the responsibility to unite all other ministries to the service of the kingdom of God,” he further said in response to the impact of his Bethany House visit.
Bishop Carlassare continued, “The Diocese does not belong to the Bishop alone; and the Bishop cannot embrace all the Diocese alone. God calls many people through baptism to be members of this family (the Church), take up responsibility and embrace all human family especially those people who are left behind, marginalized; those who do not know the warmth of love and faith in God; those who, wounded by violence and war, look for healing and peace.”
“In Nairobi I strengthened this awareness of communion in different ministries: all for the same purpose,” the 44-year-old Bishop added.
He also recalled his October 16 afternoon in Nairobi, saying, “I was happy to meet a Christian community of South Sudanese that, though far from their country, still gathers together to pray. It means that God is never far from wherever we are.”
“My message to the community of South Sudanese in Kenya was about the power of prayer,” Bishop Carlassare said, and added, “Indeed, prayer is the strength of the weak, which is stronger than the weapons of the powerful ones.”
He continued, “Prayer brings changes. First of all, prayer changes the heart of the person who prays; then, it changes society. There is no church without people who pray. And only prayerful people contribute to the betterment of the world by making society more human and gospel-like.”
The interaction with South Sudanese in Kenya who came together for Holy Mass on October 16, Bishop Carlassare said, “was a celebration of the Eucharist to make as one, one family, all brothers and sisters, sharing the same joys and sorrows.”
“I am always touched by the bond of unity that faith and love for Jesus Christ generates among us people,” the Bishop of Rumbek told ACI Africa October 21.
Credits to: ACIAFRICA
25 October 2022
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