South Sudan would benefit from papal visit

South Sudan would benefit from papal visit
Pope Francis (photo credit: courtesy)

Although Pope Francis has no official international trips confirmed for 2022 amidst a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, he has expressed an interest in visiting several countries in the New Year.

Pope Francis has expressed interest in visiting Canada, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor, Ukraine, Lebanon, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Spain, Malta, Montenegro, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Florence during his pontificate.

Pope Francis has already travelled to more than 50 countries during his almost nine-year pontificate. Last year, he made history as the first pope to visit Iraq amidst security issues, just a few days after the United States military base in Iraq was attacked. Despite attempts by the Vatican to cancel his visit over security concerns, he insisted on making the journey to Iraq.

After the visit to Iraq, he travelled to Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, and Budapest for the International Eucharistic Congress.

In reality, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan are all equal in terms of security as there is insecurity in some parts of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq are not 100 per cent secure. In the DRC, there are still ADF— Uganda-based rebels allied to ISIS that have been disturbing the region— although right now there is an ongoing joint operation between Uganda and DRC to end their activities in the area.

We are not against the Papal’s decision on which country to visit, but roping in South Sudan into this list would bring a lot of positives to the country. So far, he has visited Uganda, Kenya, and the Central African Republic, and he is seriously considering travelling to the DRC. We wish him to have a stop in South Sudan to end the long-awaited trip to Juba.

Since 2017, the Vatican has postponed the papal trip to South Sudan several times due to what they call insecurity issues. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether the insecurity is a factor that is hindering the pope from visiting Juba if he can travel to Iraq and the Central African Republic.

Apart from the insecurity, leaders need to improve the infrastructure in the capital, Juba. There is a need to improve the facilities in the city and country to host an international event like the visit of the Pope.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, an independent news source, the Vatican officials who had been in South Sudan when Pope Francis first announced his intention to visit and assess the possibility of a papal visit said the services available in South Sudan at the moment are minimal.

 The report said the arrivals section at the Juba airport, where Francis would likely have to land, is a small outdoor area with wooden planks covering muddy soil.