Catholic Diocese in South Sudan Organizing 400-km Walk to Participate in Ecumenical Visit

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022
The Catholic Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan is organizing a 400-km walk involving young people to participate in the ecumenical visit that is part of Pope Francis’ two-African-nation pastoral visit. [In the picture: Bishop Christian Carlassare, MCCJ of South Sudan's Rumbek Diocese. Text: ACI Africa. Credit: Fondazione CESAR]

In his Wednesday, June 1 letter obtained with ACI Africa, the Bishop of Rumbek gives directives about the “youth pilgrimage” that will see young parishioners between the age of 18 and 28 walk “up to 25kms a day” to join Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace during their July 5-7 ecumenical visit to Juba.

“As part of our preparations in the Diocese of Rumbek, we are arranging a youth pilgrimage to walk from Rumbek to Juba to be with the Pope,” Bishop Christian Carlassare says about the approximately 400 km road distance. Participation in the youth pilgrimage, Bishop Carlassare says, “has to be organized at parish level by the parish priest.” He explains, “Each parish can send 8 youth provided that one priest or religious person will accompany them.”

“The parish must also avail one car to escort the youth,” the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who was consecrated Bishop on March 25 directs, adding, “The pilgrimage is open to men and women between the ages of 18 and 28 years of age, who are reasonably fit, who are unmarried, and are involved in the life of their parish.”

In his letter in which he assigns Fr. Peter Garang the responsibility of overseeing the youth pilgrimage, Bishop Carlassare calls for individual contributions toward the trip, saying, “The cost for each person is 7,500 SSP (US$15.00), which covers food, accommodation, and transport.”

The youth pilgrimage that is to involve eight youth from each of the 16 Catholic Parishes of Rumbek Diocese “will be a powerful opportunity to come together as Catholics from all over the Diocese and be united with one another in prayer,” Bishop Carlassare adds. He goes on to highlight the program of the youth pilgrimage saying, “The pilgrimage will begin on Tuesday the 28th of June and will last eleven days. We will spend the first week traveling to Juba by foot and by car, walking up to 25kms a day.”

“On our arrival in Juba we will take part in the Papal program,” the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ) who was consecrated Bishop on March 25 says, and adds, “The group will return to Rumbek on Friday the 8th of July by car.”

In his June 1 statement, Bishop Carlassare acknowledges with appreciation the Holy Father’s solidarity with the South Sudanese saying, “The Pope has shown a deep concern for all the people of South Sudan and for the future of our country.”

Archbishop Welby and Rev. Wallace are to join Pope Francis in the final leg of his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa, on July 2, and then to the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC. In a May 7 joint-statement, the three church leaders described the planned July 5-7 trip to South Sudan as a “pilgrimage of peace” and urged South Sudanese leaders to foster the “way of forgiveness and freedom.”

On May 28, officials of the Holy See Press unveiled the itinerary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to DRC and what they described an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People”. In another letter about the ecumenical visit dated Thursday, June 2, Bishop Carlassare invites “catechists and pastoral agents to attend the program in Juba on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis.”

“The Diocese of Rumbek is eager to join the Pope and attend the program of the Papal visit. The pastoral department in the person of Sr. Silvesta Mtey is organizing the trip to Juba for catechists and pastoral agents as they go to represent all Christian faithful of our Diocese,” he adds. In his June 2 letter in which he directs that those joining the trip contribute 7,500 SSP (US$15.00) for transport, food, and accommodation, Bishop Carlassare further says, “The group intends to leave Rumbek by land on July 3 and will return on Friday 8, 2022.”

In a May 25 interview with Good News Radio (GNR) of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek, Bishop Carlassare who has ministered in South Sudan since 2005 said the ecumenical visit to South Sudan will have an impact on young people in the country. The July 5-7 ecumenical visit “will unite the youth of our Diocese and other people coming of course from different clans but belonging to this common family that journey toward meeting the Pope, this important person that represents us” he said.

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa. The journey will be the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan and the third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

[ACI Africa]