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"When war broke out in South Sudan, the NGOs left, but the churches stayed"

Comboni Missionary Fr. Daniele Moschetti was provincial in South Sudan in 2015. He says at that time the Vatican had already asked them to prepare for a papal visit.

Comboni Missionary

It was still kind of secret at that time. And we were told that the visit would be in 2017, but then it ended up not being possible. Now, this is the fourth time Pope Francis is attempting to do it. He has always been very determined to come to South Sudan.

Pope Francis wrote the prologue to the book Fr. Moschetti wrote about his experience in the country. The missionary says that when he handed the book to the Pope he saw that he was upset. A few days before, the Archbishop of Cantebury had traveled to South Sudan and Pope Francis regretted not being able to accompany him.

Comboni Missionary

He was very upset that he couldn't go with Justin Welby. The Archbishop went in 2017, and he visited some refugee camps facing really difficult situations. After the trip, he visited Pope Francis. The Pope had this one request: to come back to Rome, visit him and tell him what he had seen. And from there the idea for a three-day retreat for South Sudanese leaders was born. And it became a reality in 2019.

Fr. Moschetti sees the Pope's trip to the country as "historic" due its ecumenical character. Pope Francis will be accompanied by two other religious leaders: the Archbishop of Canterbury and Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. 

The former Comboni provincial believes that Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians have set an example by risking their lives in the country.

Comboni Missionary

Without the churches, there would have been many more deaths. After the first and then second war, many NGOS and embassies disappeared. Almost all of them left. The people who stayed were the churches and the religious organizations.

After three different attempts, on February 3, Pope Francis will finally realize his dream of traveling to South Sudan.