Religious sister organizes walk across South Sudan to see Pope Francis

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How far would you walk to see the Pope?

About 60 young people and 20 religious are making the 254 mile journey from the city of Rumbek to Juba. Sr. Orla, director of Loreto Rambek, says this idea came four years ago when the first rumor emerged about a papal trip to the country.

Director, Loreto Rambek

I was with a group of students at the time and I was saying to them, “What could we do if the Pope comes to South Sudan?” And they were saying, “oh, we all want to go and see him.” I said, “Realistically, we're not going to all be able to see him.” And they said, “Oh we can walk and see him.” So it kind of started as a little seed and a little thought.

While the trip didn't happen four years ago, the students' enthusiasm only grew. Sr. Orla says that there are four pillars of the pilgrimage: walking, prayer, peace and community.

The group walks from village to village. They rely on the hospitality of the people they meet along the way—sleeping in classrooms and anywhere they're welcome.

Director, Loreto Rambek

There is nothing for us in many of these places. So, we have to carry our food; we have to carry our cooking pots; we have to carry our fuel; we have to carry our plates; everything we have to carry. And we have to cook together; we have to prepare our our homes together. We have to support one another. So that sense of creating a community. So those four, I suppose, corners, if I may say, are going to be the foundation for us as we start off on the journey.

Sr. Orla explains that while seeing the Pope wasn't the only reason for this walk, Pope Francis' visit to the country is a blessing. She says the people see it as an opportunity to welcome him into their homes. 

Director, Loreto Rambek

I think for us in our area, having the Pope coming—it's an affirmation and hopefully a strengthening for our political leaders, to also feel encouraged, that though, we're not perfect in the country, that, you know, we do have pockets of peace, and we are able to move ahead.

Sr. Orla hopes that this walk may become an annual tradition focused on encouraging peace in South Sudan and beyond.


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