Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin concluded his trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan with a visit to the Uzratuna centre for people with disabilities in the South Sudanese capital of Juba. There he met members of Ovci, the organization in charge of the centre, and some of the home’s inhabitants.
His trip was full of encounters with local men and women, each with a unique story to tell. One of them was 25-year-old Bakhita Mansur, whose 2-year-old son Nelson suffers from a degenerative disease that, if left untreated, could soon leave him blind. When Cardinal Parolin approached the young mother, she did not meet his eyes, and, when urged by a friend to speak up, all she could do was mouth a silent “Thank you”.
In his subsequent meeting with priests, nuns and religious in Juba, the Cardinal reminded them that “children are the hope for the future”, saying that they often lack what they need to survive and flourish. The Vatican Secretary of State noted that despite the Church’s efforts to provide food and medicine to the population, “everything remains insufficient”, and he called on the International Community to commit to doing more, “given that in South Sudan, in the coming months, almost a third of the population will be left without humanitarian assistance from the World Food Programme due to severe food insecurity”. Beyond providing material aid, the Cardinal highlighted the Church’s responsibility to “be a model and example of communion” for the people, who, he observed “have not lost the religious sense of life”. He accompanied this with words of encouragement and inspiration, reminding the men and women that “the Church in South Sudan is not alone, but is in communion with the Pope”.
One of the highlights of the Cardinal’s visit was the blessing of the foundation stone of the building that will be the new Apostolic Nunciature of South Sudan. Cardinal Parolin explained that it is “a sign of the will to consolidate relations between the Holy See and the Republic of South Sudan through an apostolic representation”.
After saying goodbye to bishops and government officials at the airport in Juba, he boarded the plane back to Rome, where he arrived early Saturday morning, 9 July, after a layover in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.
The Cardinal returned with the satisfaction of having communicated Pope Francis’ message of affection and closeness to the people of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Holy Father postponed his trip to the African countries due to problems with his knee, but he has affirmed his desire to go as soon as he is able.