By Opio Jackson
The Vatican Ambassador to Kenya Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo has disclosed that Pope Francis will soon appoint bishops for the four vacant Catholic dioceses in South Sudan.
The four dioceses that have no bishops currently are; Torit, Malakal, Rumbek and Wau. The bishop of Torit Akio Johnson Mutek died in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013, while Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak of Wau diocese, died in Germany in March this year.
Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek diocese died in 2011 while celebrating a mass. The seat of the bishop of Malakal diocese has been vacant since 2009, when Bishop Vincent Nyikeir retired after reaching the age of seventy-five according to the Catholic Church Canon law.
In an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor newspaper during the celebration of Saint Daniel Comboni at Saint Theresa Cathedral Kator in Juba, yesterday, Archbishop Balvo who is also Papal resident Ambassador to South Sudan said the arrangement for the appointment of the new bishops was one of the reasons for his expected visit to the country.
“That is why I went to Wau last Saturday and held consultations with almost one hundred priests and religious people including Lay leaders in the Diocese of Wau,” Archbishop Balvo said.
“So when I return to Nairobi with the information I already have, it will give me a big head start on the process of looking for new bishops (for the vacant dioceses in South Sudan) ,” the Pope’s Ambassador Archbishop Balvo added.
The Nuncio (Pope’s ambassador) Balvo divulged that within some months, there will be a public announcement of the first bishop from amongst the four and that will be the new bishop for the Diocese of Torit.
He said the processes for the appointment of a new bishop for Torit had already been accomplished, while the processes for the appointment of new bishops for the dioceses of; Wau, Rumbek and Malakal would follow.
Catholic bishops are appointed by the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope. Their appointments can be made public only after secret consultations are made and then the right candidate is identified.
The candidate who is proposed to be a bishop would then receive an official letter of appointment from the Pope, and if he accepts to be the bishop for a designated diocese, he will then reply to the Holy Father(the Pope) stating his readiness, accepting to be the shepherd for the ecclesiastical territory he was appointed to.
While in his sermon at Kator to celebrate Comboni Day, Archbishop Balvo said Comboni Day was a great day for the Comboni Missionaries for the work they had undertaken to preach the gospel, though they had difficult experiences at the time when there was a great fruit to be harvested.
“There are many spiritual fruits; peace, justice, harmony and reconciliation that can come from the continued missionary work. Working progress is much more than what we can do as individuals, the church and as a nation in order to acknowledge the love of God,” Archbishop Balvo told the congregation.
Pope Francis had earlier made a surprise announcement said he wanted to make a trip to South Sudan, but not on his own. He wanted the head of the Anglican Church, Justin Welby to accompany him.
The Pope made the disclosure in an impromptu comments during a visit to Rome’s Anglican Church, the first to the parish by a pope, to mark the 200th anniversary of its opening.
The visit of Pope Francis and the archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to South Sudan was scheduled for next Sunday, 15th October 2017, according to initial announcement by the Sudan and South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) early this year.
However, the trip which the Pope said was likely to last just one day, which Vatican sources said would be for security reasons, was postponed according to a letter circulated by the Bishop of Tambura-Yambio Diocese and the President of SCBC, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told the Tablet news website that the proposed trip to South Sudan with Pope Francis has been postponed until it could have the greatest influence in terms of a peaceful outcome to the conflict.