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Sudan Sudan Prepares for Pope Francis Visit

The Archbishop of Juba Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla addresses a media briefing ahead of Pope Francis's visit to South Sudan, in Juba, South Sudan January 18, 2023.

Archbishop of Juba Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla said Wednesday that a long-awaited visit by Pope Francis next month will encourage South Sudanese to work towards restoring peace across the country.

Mulla, head of the Roman Catholic church in South Sudan, said preparations are in high gear for the reception of Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Iain Greenshields, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

"On behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of South Sudan and Sudan, we are ready to receive the Holy Father to South Sudan in Juba. We think that his coming will be enriching us all as a church but also as a nation," said Mulla addressing reporters in Juba.

Mulla urged South Sudanese to remain peaceful as the country prepares for the visit of top church leaders.

"This is a kind of an opportunity for us to get our minds together and to bring the people of South Sudan peace, reconciliation and love for one another. I think the Holy Father’s coming will enrich us in what I mentioned. And we pray that his visit will be successful," he said.

Mulla described the papal visit scheduled for Feb. 3-5 as an ecumenical pilgrimage for peace, adding religious leaders in South Sudan are ready to welcome the pope.

"We have tried to divide the committees concerned with regards to the arrival and ecumenical prayers that will be held at the John Garang Mausoleum and other churches in Kator suburb, All Saints Cathedral and the Presbyterian Church," Mulla added.

He said designated locations prayers have been secured and many committees in charge of preparations have visited the churches.

Bishop Stephen Nyodho Ador Majwok of Malakal Diocese in Upper Nile State called on South Sudanese to embrace peace as they prepare to receive Francis.

"We call upon our people, the people of God in South Sudan to prepare themselves spiritually to receive the Holy Father and also to work hard so that this visit of the Holy Father together with the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury may be a point of transformation in our country," he said.

Majwok noted that the visit could usher a new era reconciliation, unity and peace in South Sudan.

Mulla said some 2,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the towns of Bor, Malakal, Wau Bentiu and Tombura will meet with Francis in the South Sudanese capital at Freedom Hall.

In 2019, Francis kissed the feet of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar during a two-day spiritual retreat at the Vatican, urging the former rivals to put their political disagreement aside and implement the peace deal.

Francis was initially scheduled to visit South Sudan in July last year, but the Vatican cancelled the trip due to a health scare.