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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Details about the Pope's hope for South Sudan

At 11:30am today, in the Holy See Press Centre offices, there was a Press Conference held to present a new initiative entitled The Pope for South Sudan.

Present to speak at this Press Conference were:
  • Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development;
  • Sister Laura Gemignani, a Comboni Sister working at the Nazara Hospital in South Sudan;
  • Doctor Michel Roy, Secretary General for Caritas Internationalis; and
  • Sister Yudith Pereira-Rico, rjm, Associate Executive Director of Solidarity with Sudan.

Remarks prepared by His Eminence, Peter Turkson
Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to speak with you today, to make known today the support of the Holy Father for the people of South Sudan, a project which is called The Pope for South Sudan.  Far away from the spotlights, there is a war that continues to claim victims.  Death and despair are afflicting the people.  The conflict has been ongoing since 2013 and has brought about a serious humanitarian crisis that has affected more than half of the population, about 7.3 million people who suffer from hunger every day.  The lives of thousands of people have been put at risk due to an epidemic of cholera that is without precedent; a million and a half inhabitants have been forced to flee their villages and cities because of the war; in that country, there have been massacres and other atrocities which have been systemic and generalized, perpetrated against civilians based on their ethnic origins; every day, women and children are victims of violence and abuse.

Pope Francis is a universal shepherd who crosses borders.  He feels the pressing need to raise the awareness of the international community concerning this silent drama, by calling for greater and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict.  On many occasions, the Pope has expressed his desire to travel to South Sudan, in spite of the painful situation in order to encourage, with his presence, the process of peace and in order to give voice to the desperate cry of a Church that wishes to say: enough weapons, enough raping, enough death!  At the end of May 2017, the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, announced the news that since the favourable conditions for a Papal visit to South Sudan are not yet in place, this voyage - which was planned for this coming October - was postponed.

Therefore, since the Holy Father is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, he wanted to make the presence and the closeness of the Church to this afflicted population tangible through this initiative known as The Pope for South Sudan.  It is an initiative that means to foster, support and encourage the work of various religious Congregations and international aid organizations who are present in the territory and who tirelessly continue to work at helping the population and promoting the process and development of peace.

I have the honour to inform you that the Pope intends to act on his desire to be close to the people of South Sudan by promoting - through this Dicastery of Integral Human Development, over which I preside - some initiatives in favour of the people in various ways.  Two projects are in the field of health.  They concern two Jesuit hospitals run by the Comboni Missionary Sisters in South Sudan: the hospital in Wau, and the hospital in Nzara.  Another project concerns the field of education: through the association known as Solidarity with South Sudan, we hope to provide scholarships for two-year periods of study at the Solidarity Teacher Training Centre in Yambio for students, to help them obtain diplomas in teaching for primary schools

In the field of agriculture, one of the Jesuit projects being administered by Caritas Internationalis which affects approximately 2,500 families in the Dioceses of Yei, Tombura-Yambio and Torit, involves tools to encourage livestock farming and livestock breeding to further the capacity of local communities to be self-sustaining.

The Holy Father has not forgotten victims who are unheard of or silent, victims of this bloody and inhuman conflict, he does not forget all the people who are forced to flee from their native countries because of abuse, injustice and war - he is remembering them all in his prayer and in his heart.  He truly hopes to be able to pay an official visit to that country in the very near future: the Church does not close herself off from the possibility of hope, even in a territory that is so troubled: instead, she invites all people to make bold choices and to believe that Divine Providence is capable of bringing about that which might seem unreal or impossible in the eyes of the world.

27 October 2016:  The Holy Father received in audience the three main Religious leaders of South Sudan, members of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC);

15 March 2017:  The Holy Father, in a meeting with His Excellency, Paul Richard Gallagher, asked him to send a significant gift and to involve Monsignor Dal Toso, Secretary Delegate from the DSSUI in preparing a proposition for a suitable gift.  The Apostolic Nunciature (His Excellency, Charles D. Balvo) was to be kept informed about this proposition.

12 April 2017:  The Holy Father approved three projects:
1) In the field of health, the Comboni Sisters who manage two hospitals: support for medical personnel and for medicine for the hospital in Wau (Diocese of Wau) - 40,000 admissions per day and 6 per day; and support for medical personnel and for medicine for the hospital at Nzara (Diocese of Tombora-Yambio) - 90 patients per day and assistance for children.
2) In the field of work being carried out by Caritas Internationalis and Caritas South-Sudan: the purchase of seeds and agricultural tools in the dioceses of Tombura-Yambio, Yei, Torit, Malakai and Juba for 2,500 families through Diocesan Caritas offices.
3) In the field of education in Solidarity with South Sudan (which involves some religious congregations): instruction and formation of teachers (but also formation for nurses, obstetricians, agricultural workers and community leaders - involving 3,482 students in the Dioceses of Yambio.
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