Parolin in South Sudan: “Let’s close painful pages for the country
The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, left Kinshasa for Juba, the second leg of his trip to Africa on behalf of the pope. He will meet South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar on Tuesday.
By Salvatore Cernuzio – Juba
Cardinal Parolin says he is leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo “reinvigorated by his experience”. Now he begins the second part of his trip to Africa on behalf of the Pope on Tuesday. The next stop is Juba, capital of South Sudan, where – the cardinal tells the Vatican media accompanying him on the trip – hope is to help bring about a lasting peace, so that “there is the capacity to reconcile, and that agreements are reached to close this painful page”, perhaps before the general elections of 2023.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, “an intense moment”
Before boarding a plane at Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia, the Cardinal described his stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a “very beautiful moment, intense and positive. At least the first impressions confirm that the visit served precisely to bring the presence and the affection of the Pope to the people and to the Church who awaited him with so much hope. I hope all this can be repeated in South Sudan.
“Certainly”, underlined Cardinal Parolin, “the situation, including political ones, is very delicate. We must therefore continue, as the Holy See has always done, to insist on peace so that there is ability to reconcile and find agreements to close a painful page.We also hope that with the next elections in 2023 this will be able to materialize.
The retreat of Sudanese leaders in Santa Marta
The Secretary of State then recalled the retreat in Santa Marta in April 2019, which was attended by the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and the Vice Presidents designate, Riek Machar and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabio. At the end of days of prayer and discussion, and in an unprecedented gesture, the pope knelt down to kiss their feet and implore peace for the country. “We put ourselves in the same line as the Pope,” Cardinal Parolin said, “precisely to reiterate this invitation, this exhortation, this prayer for peace.”
The greeting in Kinshasa
The Secretary of State left the Congolese capital Kinshasa in the early afternoon of July 4, after celebrating a morning Mass with the community of the major diocesan seminary. There, he greeted and stopped to exchange with formators and seminarians with whom he lived a moment of fraternity interspersed with various songs. The Cardinal, who also signed the Book of Honour, then went to the Apostolic Nunciature, which welcomed him with great affection during these three days. To the whole “family” of the Nunciature, led by Bishop Ettore Balestrero, Cardinal Parolin addressed words of gratitude and encouragement: “You work for the Pope, don’t forget that”. Once again, the Cardinal reiterated the Pontiff’s desire to go there as soon as possible.
The program in Juba
On the program in Juba, a meeting with the President of the Republic, Salva Kiir, in the afternoon followed by a meeting with the First Vice-President, Riek Machar. In the evening, a meeting with the bishops of the country is planned. On July 6, one of the most significant moments of the trip to South Sudan will take place: the visit to the Bentiu camp among the displaced people living in difficult conditions, with poor water and sanitation services. Cardinal Parolin will celebrate a mass for them, then meet with UN representatives and the governor. On July 7, a mass will be held in the grounds of the John Garang Mausoleum, a memorial to the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army and first vice-president of Sudan following the peace accords. This is the same place where the pope was to celebrate mass. The Secretary of State will bless the foundation stone of the new Apostolic Nunciature in Juba and meet with clergy and religious. At the end of the trip, there will be a visit to the Catholic University and the Children’s Center of Usratuna, a place where people belonging to different religions collaborate for the integration of disabled children and the formation of their families. On the afternoon of July 8, the cardinal will leave for Rome, where he is to arrive the next day.