EDITORIAL: Let’s remain hopeful despite postponed papal visit

EDITORIAL: Let’s remain hopeful despite postponed papal visit
Pope Francis’ planned visit to South Sudan has been postponed to a later date.

Until yesterday, the preparations were in top gear to receive Pope Francis in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, in the next few weeks. The Apostolic tour, which was to run from July 2–7, 2022, was to encompass a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan—two countries battling for lasting stability.

His plan for Congo aside, the Pontiff was lined up for a tour in Juba from July 5-7, 2022, where he was to visit and address the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during his two-day Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage in South Sudan.

There were high hopes that the papal tour was going to give a reassuring message of hope as the country heals from COVID-19 pandemic blues, and struggles to shake off the burden of inter-communal conflicts.

Fr. Samuel Abe, General Coordinator for the Pope’s Visit to South Sudan, said on May 31, 2022, with optimism: “He will deliver a message of hope to them that they are not abandoned and that situation will one day improve and they will go back to their homes.”

The government has been active in preparing for the papal visit with President Salva Kiir regularly getting briefing on the progress, particularly from the ministers and the Central Equatoria State leadership. Even as of July 8, South Sudan Catholic Bishop’s Secretariat told the journalists that the visit was on course that that the reporters would be offered unrestricted access to cover the Pontiff.

But sadly, these hopes dashed yesterday after Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office, issued a message confirming the cancellation of the trip to a later date, yet to be announced.

He said: “At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardise the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, planned for 2 to 7 July, to a later date to be determined.”

Pope Francis has had a knee problem since the year began. He has been pictured moving on wheelchair on a few occasions but his desire to discharge his duties as normally remains admirable. The cancellation of the trip is no doubt a disappointment to not only the Catholic faithful and the government, but also the entire South Sudanese population that would have benefitted from the tour. Businesses were bound to register a generous boost not to mention the spiritual bond that comes with it. It is our hope that the organisers will soon communicate a date for his tour. We wish him a quick recovery.