Monday, January 30, 2023

Ecumenical Visit to Impact South Sudanese, “a blessing for us”: Catholic Missionary Nun


The planned ecumenical visit to South Sudan to be undertaken by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields next week is to have an impact on the people of God in the East-Central African nation, a Catholic Nun has said. 

Sr. Orla Treacy described the February 3-5 trip as “a blessing”, and urged the people of God in South Sudan to give the Holy Father and the other two Christian leaders a befitting reception.

“The whole world will be looking at us, which gives us a sense of hope for peace and reconciliation because the people of South Sudan will have a chance to be impacted by this visit,” Sr. Ola said.

She added, “The fact that these religious leaders are coming to South Sudan is a blessing for us.”

“We cannot just assume that we are going to have peace in South Sudan in a moment but it’s an important step to start talking about the possibility and the desire that we have for peace and reconciliation,” the Irish-born member of the Loreto Sisters told ACI Africa.

On 1 December 2022, officials of the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis’ rescheduled visit would begin in DRC from January 31, and conclude with an “Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace in South Sudan”.

In his first leg of the two-African-nation trip, the Holy Father will first travel to Kinshasa, where he will meet with the country’s authorities, victims of the conflict in the Eastern part of the country and representatives of charitable organizations, celebrate Holy Mass, meet with young people, Catholic Bishops, and Jesuits in DRC before heading to South Sudan.

In the January 24 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Orla who was among the pioneer members of the Loreto Sisters in Rumbek Diocese in 2006 said, “The visit of the Pope will give us that sense of hope because he is bringing the whole world with him.”

“The most important thing is that the visit is part of hope that’s coming for all of us,” she said, and added, “We can believe that it’s possible that we can walk to what is common rather than what’s different between us.”

The Catholic nun further said, “Nobody can expect any of us just in a moment to be settled and be peaceful with one another.”

Making reference to a nine-day peace pilgrimage to Juba that the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek is realizing from January 25, Sr. Ola said Catholics and members of other religious denominations are taking part in the spiritual exercise.

“We have sixty young people from Rumbek Diocese; there are some who are members of the Episcopal Church and those who are studying with us who come from the other States with messages of peace,” she said.

Sr. Orla went on to share details about the 400-km pilgrimage, saying, “The first is walking where we will cover about twenty kilometer everyday hoping to cover at least one hundred kilometers by foot.”

The second, she continued, “is prayer where we come together as a Church and Christian community to pray together; and the third is peace where we go into different villages and communities every afternoon to do drama on peace and engage the community on how to build peace together.”

“We will be living as a community by sleeping in schools and Parishes wherever we are welcomed,” Sr. Orla said, adding that the plans for the pilgrimage have been received positively and that communities where “we will be passing by are so happy, willing and wanting to welcome us.”

She continued, “There are people within the community who are excited and ready to walk with us because it was not possible to do that two years ago because of insecurity.”

Looking towards the days Pope Francis will be in South Sudan, Sr. Orla said that meeting the Holy Father will be difficult but if it happens, “it will be an extra bonus for us as well.”

When realized, the pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark Pope Francis’ third trip to sub-Saharan Africa and the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan.