On January 20th, Pope Francis met with the Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan. During the encounter, the Bishops invited the Holy Father to visit South Sudan. The Pope expressed his desire to accept the invitation, adding “we have to leave everything in the hands of the Lord”.
Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro, of the Archdiocese of Juba, said the “issue of peace” is still a priority in both countries, especially in South Sudan, “because we are at war”.
Despite initial hopes of a peaceful future after independence was achieved, a civil conflict broke out in 2013 between different factions in South Sudan. This new civil war has killed thousands of people and displaced more than one million others. “Without peace, religion has difficulties,” Archbishop Loro said.
The Archbishop disclosed that the Church in South Sudan was involved in a new peace mediation initiative to bring about reconciliation and forgiveness between South Sudan’s warring factions. He further challenged those who have contributed to South Sudan’s atrocities to repent and seek God’s mercy.
The Catholic Church in South Sudan has one archdiocese, and six suffragan dioceses. The two Bishops are members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Catholics make up over a third of the population in South Sudan, whereas in Sudan, Catholics make up just over 3% of the population, and the vast majority of the people are Muslims.