November 21 1996

Pope John Paul II Message to the Catholics of Southern Sudan

Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the Sudan - with official residence in Khartoum - has visited the SPLA-controlled areas of Southern Sudan from 9 to 18 November 1996. The purpose of this visit was to deliver to the Catholics of Southern Sudan a message from Pope John Paul II. Here follow the message of the Pope and a statement written by Archbishop Ender at the end of his visit.

For more information:
Fr. Kizito, tel. +254.2.569130 or 562247, fax: 566668

To all the Catholic faithful of the Dioceses of Torit, Tombura-Yambio and Rumbek

I greet you all in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I gladly entrust to my Representative in Sudan, Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender, this message which he will personally deliver to you as a sign of my constant concern and affection.

When I stopped in Khartoum in February 1993, it was my ardent wish to come to you but, unfortunately, circumstances did not allow it. Nevertheless, I have remembered you every day in my prayers. I remember you, the Bishops, who have the difficult mission of guiding the faithful in a particularly trying social and political situation; the priests and the men and women Religious who, with a self-giving generosity that brings honour to the Church, share the daily trials of their brothers and sisters; and all of you, the Catholics of southern Sudan who witness to your faith in the midst of adversity and even of persecution.

The words of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians come spontaneously to mind: " We give thanks to God always for you...remembering before our God...your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 1:2-3). The Lord grants you to accomplish great things, even if they seem to be hidden to the eyes of the world. In the midst of violence of every kind, you still know how to love and to bring relief to one another. When discrimination and injustice afflict you, you know how to persevere in faith and in communion with the Church, the Body of Christ. When all appears to have failed, you know how to give signs of goodness and solidarity, which make it possible to say that a better tomorrow can be prepared.

I urge you to remain united around your Bishops, and never to give in to despair. Each Christian and each local Church is called to be one with the Paschal Mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection. To pass from death to life, to accept trials which purify and help us to live what is truly essential: that is the Gospel message, which we live in the certainty given to us by Jesus himself: "Be brave, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16:33).

With these sentiments I wish to strengthen and encourage you, so that you may never lack the hope and trust you need to carry on. I entrust you all to the intercession of Blessed Josephine Bakhita and Blessed Daniel Comboni, the heavenly patrons of your communities. I wish to assure you of the prayerful solidarity of the whole Church, as well as the Holy See's unfailing efforts to draw the attention of the international community to your tragic situation.

Know that the Successor of Peter is close to you and implores God for you, that you may have the strength to go forward "rooted and built on Jesus Christ" (cf. Col 2:7). As a pledge of reconciliation and peace I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 October 1996
Joannes Paulus II

Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender Statement

Coming on 10th February 1993 for a short pastoral visit to Khartoum Pope John Paul II intended to bring a message of reconciliation and hope to all the Sudanese people, irrespective of differences of religious or ethnic origin. He came especially to encourage and strengthen the faith of the Christians in the Sudan in the present tragic situation of civil war, when that faith demands great courage and fidelity. Almost four years after this historical visit the Holy Father has directed a particular message still to the Christian Communities in the Southern Sudan which the Papal Representative in this country, Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender, had the honour to deliver to them during his recent pastoral visit to their Dioceses, from 9th to 18th November 1996.

This visit to the Christians in the south could be considered as a continuation of the visit of the Holy Father himself to the Church in the Sudan. Its main purpose was to assure also the Christian Communities in the war areas that they are not forgotten, but that the Holy See and the whole Church continue to assist them in their suffering and in their struggles for the respect of their God-given rights. Although refusing to be directly involved in politics, the Church is by her mission on the side of those who strive for justice and peace and for the respect of the inviolable dignity of every human being, regardless of their origin, colour or sex. The Pope assures in his message the suffering Sudanese in the South also of the "Holy See's unfailing efforts to draw the attention of the international community to... (their) tragic situation." The most important and specific contribution, however, the Church can offer them in their desolate situation is the moral encouragement and strength, based on the Christian faith, which enable them to never lack the hope and trust needed to carry on. Therefore the Holy Father urges the Christians to remain united around their Bishops and never to give in to despair.

In all villages and parishes visited the Papal Representative has found a great desire and determination among the people to effectively improve and develop the conditions of their individual, family and social life. Urgent appeals have been made not only for more food and medicine, but also for a better education. The actual deprivations and needs caused by the long civil war are immense, some basic assistance arrives, but what is mostly needed is a just and lasting PEACE. With peace everything can be achieved, without peace many things will remain forever out of reach. The present conditions of relative security and stability in the so-called liberated areas don't seem to need any other radical political change, but rather further improvement. For this the declared Principles of the IGAD Peace Initiative offer the most promising perspectives as a solid base for a definitive solution of the tragic conflict between the Northern and Southern Sudan in justice and peace.

Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender
Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the Sudan

For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail:


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