Vatican Secretary of State to Meet Refugees From Sudan During Visit to South Sudan

The apostolic nuncio in South Sudan said the visit by Cardinal Pietro Parolin is an extension of the ‘care and love’ of Pope Francis.

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin receives Cardinal Pietro Parolin upon the cardinal’s arrival in Juba, South Sudan, Aug. 14.
Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin receives Cardinal Pietro Parolin upon the cardinal’s arrival in Juba, South Sudan, Aug. 14. (photo: Sudan/South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference)

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin arrived in South Sudan on Monday, Aug. 14, to meet people fleeing violence from neighboring Sudan among other activities lined up for his four-day visit to the east-central African country.

In an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s partner news agency in Africa, ahead of the visit, the apostolic nuncio in South Sudan said the visit by Cardinal Parolin is an extension of the “care and love” of Pope Francis to the people of South Sudan.

Cardinal Parolin is visiting South Sudan at the invitation of Bishop Stephen Nyodho of the Diocese of Malakal as a follow-up to his July 2022 visit to review the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those fleeing violence in neighboring Sudan. These include people who have been displaced by the ongoing war between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

“The visit of the cardinal is another way of extending that care and love of the Holy Father to the people of South Sudan because Pope Francis, as we all know him, is a man who has always had special attention for the least of our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Hubertus van Megen said in an Aug. 13 interview with ACI Africa at the apostolic nunciature in Juba.

He added: “There is an influx of people coming from Sudan to Malakal, and it is the intention of the cardinal to go and meet those people to greet them and show to them the care and love of Pope Francis and also to see their needs.”

“The Holy Father is thinking of all the refugees that are coming in, those from various parts of South Sudan and those from Sudan,” he said. “Pope Francis is thinking about people who have lost everything in their lives, and it is good that these people in one way or another feel they are not forgotten and they are cared for, and this is the role of the Church.” 

After his reception at Juba International Airport by clergy, religious, government officials and a few faithful, the cardinal proceeded to the Vatican apostolic nunciature for a meeting with Church leaders in South Sudan. 

Also on Cardinal Parolin’s itinerary is a meeting with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, vice presidents and other government officials, before he travels to the Diocese of Malakal to meet with the returnees and refugees from Sudan.

Cardinal Parolin will also visit the Diocese of Rumbek to listen to the concerns of that diocese.

The cardinal is scheduled to plant trees at St. Theresa Catholic Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Juba before returning to Rome on Aug. 17.

Speaking to journalists Aug. 12, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of the Archdiocese of Juba said Pope Francis sent Cardinal Parolin to South Sudan to become familiar with the situation in South Sudan, both as a state and a Church official.

“His visit shows the love of the Holy Father to South Sudanese. We have a lot to benefit from this visit because it will show how we have progressed with what we shared with the Holy Father when he came and also with the cardinal when he was in the country with the Pope,” Archbishop Ameyu said during the press conference at his residence in Juba.

The archbishop of Juba said Cardinal Parolin is coming to “follow up on some tasks we were given; those tasks are clear in our minds, both the government and the Church tasks.”

“We are here emphasizing the question of comprehensive peace among the people, the peace that was signed in Addis-Ababa. The Revitalize Peace Agreement so far has not yet been implemented systematically; there are some loopholes concerning this agreement that require follow-up,” said Archbishop Ameyu, who was named a cardinal on July 9. “The Holy Father would like us to begin building peace together; there is no peace without compromises.” 

“It is not easy to implement this peace, especially when there are [outlying] disagreements between the parties in the implementation of peace,” he continued. “We are here to encourage each party to the Revitalized Peace Agreement to see into it that at least there should be some compromises; there is no peace without compromises.” 

The cardinal-elect encouraged South Sudanese to have patience amid their hardships, noting that the Church is working tirelessly to ensure that the country’s peace agreement is implemented fully for lasting peace and stability in the country.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner agency in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.