Pope Francis’ visit still on, say clergy

Pope Francis’ visit still on, say clergy
Pope Francis when he hosted President Salva Kiir at the Vatican in 2019. [Courtesy]

Church leaders in South Sudan have urged Catholic faithful not to be disheartened by the postponement of Pope Francis visit to South Sudan next month.

Dr. Stephen Ameyo Martine Mula, Metropolitan Bishop of Juba Diocese, is hopeful that Catholic Church faithful will ultimately meet the pontiff. To the cleric, there is a great sense of optimism and the preparation exercises remain unhampered.

“So this statement does not prevent us from preparing because his visit to South Sudan has been postponed rather than canceled, so the planned communal prayers on the 18th of this month will take place as scheduled.”

“We will continue with our ongoing preparations; our meetings and preparations are ongoing,” he said.

However, he said it any disappointment would be understandable because many people have been preparing for months to meet the Holy Father up to the time the Vatican issued the statement.  

The Vatican announced on Friday the postponement of Pope Francis’ planned July trip to South Sudan due to a knee problem, making it impossible to have the tour on health grounds. The pontiff is 85 years old.

“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize 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,’’ said Matteo Bruni, the Director of Holy See Press Office.

He urged the public to embrace such conditions, stating that health is never given to anyone and that illness can strike anyone at any time.

Meanwhile, Monsignor Ionuj Stragjac, the Vatican’s Charge d’Affaires in Juba, indicated that the trip to South Sudan has been postponed rather than canceled.

He urged people to use the occasion to continue praying for the Holy Father’s health and to prepare for his arrival in South Sudan.

“The Holy Father is resolved to come, and people must expect the Holy Father to arrive in Juba shortly,” the Vatican delegate to South Sudan stated.

The trip, originally planned for July 2 to 7, will be rescheduled, though no new date has been set.

Francis, 85, has been suffering from pain in his right knee in recent weeks and has sometimes been seen struggling to walk.

Last month, he relied on a wheelchair for the first time at a public event.

According to the schedule for the trip, which was announced by the Vatican in March, the pontiff was to visit the DRC capital, Kinshasa, as well as Goma, the main town in the restive eastern province of North Kivu.

He was then to head to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

South Sudan, the world’s newest country, has suffered from chronic instability since independence in 2011, including a brutal five-year civil war.