News, Papal visit in South Sudan

First Anniversary of the Holy Father Francis’ Apostolic Pilgrimage to South Sudan


February 3-5, 2023, are the dates of the apostolic pilgrimage of the Holy Father Francis to South Sudan.  He was joined in this historic visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the General Moderator of the Church of Scotland.  It was a visit long anticipated and longed for by the suffering people of South Sudan, who have often felt that they have been forgotten by the world.  It was a visit in which many people around the world, and here in Rome, participated through prayer and through the media.  From Rome, I was privileged to serve as a commentor for Vatican Media and thus to view footage of the Holy Father landing in Juba, and the historic motorcade taking him through town to the residence of the president of the country.  I recall being amused and impressed by the Holy Father’s insistence on simplicity: following all of the large black SUVs with their huge engines and tinted windows, along came a small white Italian Fiat, with the Holy Father riding in the front seat and waving joyfully to all the pilgrims lining the road from the airport.

Here in Rome, on the evening before the Holy Father’s departure for his pilgrimage to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to South Sudan, more than 200 faithful people gathered at the Basilica of San Bartolomeo All’Isola (Saint Bartholomew on the Island), designated by the Pope Saint John Paul II as the “Shrine of the New Martyrs of the 20th and 21st Centuries”, to pray for God’s blessing on the Holy Father’s visit.  It was appropriate that we should gather at that particular church, since the Congo and South Sudan have witnessed so much martyrdom in recent decades.  In fact, it is in this church that the relics of two of the recent marytrs of South Sudan—Sisters of the Sacred Heart Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba—were enshrined just the year before.  Friends and supporters of Solidarity with South Sudan, and especially our colleague Sister Joan Mumaw, IHM, and the members of Friends in Solidarity in the United States, were all united with us in prayer.

In his homily for the closing Mass held at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, the Holy Father addressed the assembled faithful with these words:

“You are the salt of the earth in this country. Yet, when you consider its many wounds, the violence that increases the venom of hatred, and the injustice that causes misery and poverty, you may feel small and powerless. Whenever that temptation assails you, try looking at salt and its tiny grains. Salt is a tiny ingredient and, once placed on food, it disappears, it dissolves; yet precisely in that way it seasons the whole dish. In the same way, even though we are tiny and frail, even when our strength seems paltry before the magnitude of our problems and the blind fury of violence, we Christians are able to make a decisive contribution to changing history.”

Here in Rome, in anticipation of this historic anniversary, the British, Irish, and Slovenian Ambassadors to the Holy See hosted a panel and a reception for Ambassadors and other interested persons for Solidarity with South Sudan at which we were able to talk about the history of this inter-congregational initiative of the UISG and USG, our current efforts, and our hopes and plans for the future.  The event was well attended, with a capacity crowd of more than thirty ambassadors and other dignitaries.  Sister Margaret Scott, RNDM, principal emeritus of the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio, and Sister Espérance Bamiriyo, CMS, principal emeritus of the Catholic Health Training Institute in Wau, were able to join Ms. Emanuela De Mattia, our Fundraising Director, and me for the evening.

Indeed, our efforts may sometimes seem “paltry before the magnitude of our problems and the blind fury of violence”.  We may become discouraged and we are perhaps even tempted at times to hopelessness and despair.  Yet, our faith teaches us that our efforts, like a grain of salt, do have an impact, an impact that may not immediately be visible, an impact that may take a long time to bear fruit, but an impact just like the salt that flavors our food.  As the Holy Father said, “[W]e Christians are able to make a decisive contribution to changing history”.  With God’s help, let us continue to strive to be “the salt of the Earth” that Jesus calls us to be.

Father David Gentry

Mission Promoter

Date Published:

01 February 2024


Fr. David Gentry, Mission Promoter


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