Pope Francis is scheduled to land in Juba, South Sudan, today, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, after spending three days visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

The pope will be joined in Juba by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Church of Scotland. Before leaving Rome on Jan. 29, Pope Francis said “together, as brothers, we will make an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, to entreat God and men to bring an end to the hostilities and for reconciliation.”

South Sudan is known to approach issues from an ecumenical perspective, including Christian, Muslim, Orthodox, and Jewish. The young country is 60% Christian, and mostly Catholic thanks to active ministries of the Comboni Missionaries.

Over the last 60 years, ecumenism has grown because the civil war made urgent the need for religious actors to come together to promote peace. This led to South Sudan Council of Churches becoming the most effective voice for peace in the country. During the civil war 1956-72, and again from 1983-2005, the council stood in for a government in some ways. So the people of South Sudan often look to religious institutions for for education, social care, and humanitarian aid.

This pilgrimage of peace was initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2019 when leaders of South Sudan came to Rome. Pope famously kissed their feet in a petition to them to make peace among themselves and for the people of the South Sudan. At that time, the three ecumenical leaders made a commitment to come to South Sudan to meet with the people impacted by the conflict.

Over three days in Juba, the three pilgrims for peace were scheduled to lead an ecumenical prayer service, visit to IDP refugee settlement and the John Garang Memorial, as well as meet with individual denominations and clergy. The pope will live in simple conditions at the home of the papal nuncio. 

Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the journey and peace for the people of South Sudan. The goal is to reinvigorate the peace process and to give the people hope for peace.  

Learn more

Learn more about Maryknoll missioners in South Sudan: Lay Missioner Gabe Hurrish and Fr. Mike Bassano.

Video "Pope Francis' Pastoral Trip to Africa: Spiritual and Political Significance" by Africa Faith and Justice Network.

Video "Why Pope Francis will visit South Sudan" by America Magazine.

Find resources to Pray Study Act for South Sudan


Image: Bor Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in South Sudan. Photo in the public domain.