“The peace which our country so badly needs is not a purely human peace based on personal interests, but rather the peace of Jesus,” said the Archbishop of Juba.
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
At 59 years old, South Sudan’s Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla cuts the figure of a young Bishop. Ordained in 2019 for South Sudan’s Diocese of Torit, the visit of Pope Francis to South Sudan thrust him into the world’s limelight. He has had to hit the ground running. Seasoned Bishops could be forgiven for finding the idea of hosting the Pope in their diocese daunting.
In January 2019, at 54 years, Ameyu was appointed Bishop of Torit. By the end of that same year, in December 2019, he had a new appointment as the Archbishop of Juba. He calmly weathered some pockets of resistance to his appointment as the Archbishop of Juba.
Pope Francis flanked by the Archbishop of Juba, Stephen Ameyu
Dear brother, Stephen
“Thank you, dear brother, Stephen, for your kind words,” the Pope addressed himself to Archbishop Ameyu during the closing Juba Mass held at the John Garang Mausoleum on 5 February 2023. The colourful and solemn Eucharist was attended by all the country’s political leadership, visiting regional religious and secular representatives augmented by a more than 100 000-capacity assembly.
In his booming voice, Archbishop Ameyu assisted Pope Francis at the altar. Later, he spoke for many in South Sudan and beyond when he expressed frustration with the slow progress of implementing the complex peace agreement.
“It is discouraging that the peace process has moved forward so slowly. Your Holiness, we share your fatherly concern for the restoration of peace in our country,” he said.
Here below is the address, in full, of the Archbishop of Juba to Pope Francis.
Closing Remarks by His Grace Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla
of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba,
on the Occasion of the Papal Visit to Juba,
3 – 5 January 2023.
Your Holiness Pope Francis, on behalf of the members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I warmly thank you and I also thank Almighty God for having allowed this historic visit to happen in our time. Furthermore, I thank you very much for taking this bold decision to visit our country, which is suffering due to the consequences of civil war. Your Holiness, I believe that your visit is a sign of solidarity with us and shows the desire to restore tranquility in this country.
Your Holiness, you have come to our country to urge our political leaders to work for peace and for the common good of Sudan and South Sudan. You have demonstrated this concern previously in your repeated calls for reconciliation between the warring parties. In April 2019, for example, you hosted South Sudanese leaders for a two-day spiritual retreat in the Vatican, during which you urged them to strengthen the country’s faltering peace process. Amazingly, you even knelt down to kiss their feet as a symbol of humility and service of humanity. However, it is discouraging that the peace process has moved forward so slowly.
Your Holiness, we share your fatherly concern for the restoration of peace in our country. War has brought the indiscriminate destruction of human lives and the destruction of assets such as homes and livestock. We have experienced looting, raping, economic deterioration, and the displacement of countless people, many of whom have fled to neighbouring countries. Thus, with such negative impacts of civil war upon our innocent people, one can say: it is better to have peace than to have war, because war destroys whereas peace builds.
Your Holiness, despite the above-mentioned challenges of civil war, the Church in Sudan and South Sudan has grown: indeed, though we have lived through tough historic periods, we have celebrated one hundred years of faith in this country. On the one hand, our Church has produced two Saints: St. Daniel Comboni and St. Josephine Bakhita, and on the other hand, the local Church has witnessed to the faith through martyrdom. Among those martyred during the first war, known as “Anyanya One” (which lasted from 1956-1972 ), were Mr. William Deng, Fr. Saturlino Ohure and Fr. Leopoldo Anyuar. There have been martyrs of the current civil war as well. Sr. Veronika Teresa Rackova, SSpS, a Slovak sister and medical doctor, was killed on May 16, 2016, while serving in the Catholic Diocese of Yei. Sr. Mary Abbud and Sr. Regina Roba, from the local congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were also killed, on August 16, 2021, while they were on their way back to Juba from the centenary celebration of Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Loa in the Catholic Diocese of Torit.
Your Holiness, our country is truly suffering due to the civil war. Therefore, we are looking for peace and reconciliation. However, the peace which our country so badly needs is not a purely human peace based on personal interest, but rather the peace of Jesus, who says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (Jn 14:27). This is a peace that must be guided by truth and love.
In conclusion, your Holiness, once again, with your friends Dr Iain and Dr Justin, we thank you for coming to our country. You have pushed us further in building peace, and we assure you of our prayers for your health as you return to Rome. May this great event of your visit bring blessings and lasting peace to this country and also in our sister country, Sudan. Thank you very much