· Vatican City ·

Cardinal Czerny concludes South Sudan visit with Holy Mass on the liturgical commemoration of Saint Bakhita

A story of hope

 A story of hope  ING-006
09 February 2024

That of Saint Josephine Bakhita is “a story of hope, from captivity and slavery to eventually learning of God in a convent of Sisters”, to the point that “when finally, she was freed, she chose a life of full commitment to God” and entered religious life. This was emphasized by Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (dssui), as he celebrated Mass in South Sudan on Thursday, 8 February, to mark World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, and the liturgical commemoration of the Saint, considered the patron saint of victims of human trafficking.

In the Church in Malakal dedicated to her, the Cardinal recalled how she “suffered greatly in her life. As a child, she was abducted and forced to walk hundreds of kilometers to be sold as a slave. During the journey to El Obeid, she was bought and sold twice. And after El Obeid, she was sold multiple times, spending many years in captivity marked by abuse and hardship”. Nevertheless, afterwards she even thanked her kidnappers, “for without them she might not have known of Jesus, nor of the Church”, offering a strong example of being hopeful “even amidst dire circumstances”. And in this regard, Czerny referred to Pope Francis’ catechesis at the General Audience on 11 October last, dedicated precisely to the Saint as a model of apostolic zeal.

Turning his thoughts to South Sudan, on the anniversary of the Holy Father’s ecumenical visit to that country, the Prefect referred to the first reading, (1 Kings 11:4-13) to denounce the false gods and idols that have devastated the African country: greed for wealth, “which makes us deprive others of the common good, whereby the resources meant for many people are only utilized by a few, or even by one”; hunger for power, control and domination, “not only at the national level but even within our local communities, villages and all levels of human organization; tribalism or nationalism, “which drives us to exclude others and to treat them as being less human, or even to kill them, as some of you have witnessed”.

Recalling Pope Francis’ visit to Juba, the Prefect urged the people of South Sudan “to walk in the way of peace. His presence and his words stirred up a flame of zeal, he enkindled here a fire. He ignited a spirit that leads South Sudan to be known for peace and not for war”, said the Prefect of dssui. Thus, he continued, everyone in the country has the duty to keep that fire alight and to spark that flame in the lives and hearts of others.  “We are duty bound to follow” the Pope’s example. “If we fight, let us fight for peace and unity as one blessed family of God”, because “unity is the weapon that we possess to fight against whatever divides us and takes away our peace”.

During the rite, which included the participation of Cardinal Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, Archbishop of Juba, Cardinal Czerny ordained three new deacons. He summarized the commitments and responsibilities assumed by the three, into one word: “service”. The same word was used by Pope Francis in his catechesis on Bakhita, whom he described as one who “was able to experience service, not as slavery, but as an expression of the free gift of self”.

“I invite you to learn from this great saint”, the Prefect added.

During his week-long visit to South Sudan which concluded on 9 February, Cardinal Czerny met with representatives of civil and ecclesiastic authorities and participated in several ecumenical events.