The planned Papal ecumenical visit to South Sudan that the Holy See confirmed on December 1 signals the possibility for peace and reconciliation in the world’s youngest nation, a Catholic Missionary nun in the country has said.
In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Elena Balatti reflected on the Ecumenical Pilgrimage to be undertaken by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, from February 3-5.
“This ecumenical pilgrimage by Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Moderator Iain is a signal that peace and reconciliation are possible in South Sudan,” Sr. Balatti said during the December 2 interview.
The announcement that the visit that had been postponed will realized is “already a message of peace and reconciliation itself”, the member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) further said.
She added, “People have high expectations from the visit of the Church leaders because it’s a good sign to bring the people of South Sudan together.”
The Italian-born Catholic Nun who coordinates the department of Integral Human Development (Caritas) in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese challenged the political leaders in the East-Central African nation “to work towards achieving peace” in the country.
While the ecumenical visit “will surely be an encouragement for the people of South Sudan to make peace among themselves,” Sr. Balatti said, there is need to be proactive in the journey towards peace.
“Let’s not wait for the Holy Father to come and make peace and reconciliation among ourselves; we should start making peace now,” she said in remarks directed to South Sudanese in general and those behind the violent conflict that started in December 2013 in particular.
Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Juba from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on February 3 and return to the Vatican on February 5.
When realized, the pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark his third visit to sub-Saharan Africa and the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan.
Looking towards the ecumenical trip, Sr. Balatti said in reference to Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Moderator Iain, “If people can listen to the messages of the church leaders, I’m sure steps towards peace and stability will be done.”
“Every one of us should contribute to peace; let's not say any word or take action that will divide us or cause destruction,” the Comboni Sister serving in the country’s Catholic Diocese of Malakal said told ACI Africa during the December 2 interview.
Since the Ecumenical visit will be realized in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, Sr. Balatti said that Parishioners from rural areas of Malakal Diocese have started “booking their representatives to participate in the event.”
Those who will not make it to Juba are expected to gather in Malakal Diocese in communion with the Holy Father and the other church leaders, she said.
The CMS member who started her missionary service in Sudan in 1994 added, “The plan will be elaborated in the coming weeks” for the people of God in the South Sudanese Diocese.