By Kerbino Kuel Deng
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who arrived in South Sudan on Aug. 14 for a four-day visit, comforted returnees and refugees in the Diocese of Malakal who were displaced by the Sudan war that started on April 15 and expressed the closeness of the Holy Father with them.
In his address to the returnees and refugees during his visit to the South Sudanese diocese on Aug. 15, Parolin thanked the local authorities and Bishop Stephen Nyodho Ador Majwok for facilitating the visit.
“I am very glad to be here and I thank the authorities and the bishop for having planned this visit to the place where you are staying, coming from Sudan,” Parolin told the returnees and refugees who gathered at their reception center in Malakal.
“We feel very sorry for … what happened to you in Sudan,” the cardinal said, adding: “We can do something also from our side; we are the Holy See, we are the Vatican, the moral voice very powerful in the international community.”
He went on to explain the kind of help the Vatican can offer in an effort to address the plight of the returnees and refugees following the war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has resulted in violence characterized by “horror scenes” and displacement of at least 4 million people.
“We can raise the attention and the interest of the international community towards your situation just to provide the means to solve your problems to go back to your places of origin in a very safe and dignified way,” the cardinal said. “I promise you, we will try to do so.”
He went on to extend Pope Francis’ closeness with the refugees and returnees he was addressing on Aug. 15, saying: “I am here also on behalf of the Holy Father to show to the people of Malakal and also to you, especially you that found yourself in such a difficult stressing situation, the solidarity of the Holy Father and the solidarity of the Catholic Church.”
“This solidarity is not empty-hand[ed] solidarity because the Catholic Church is committed to helping you in whatever way they can,” the Vatican secretary of state said. “This is the solidarity of the Holy Father; this is the solidarity of the universal Church; this is the solidarity of the local Church.”
“I am happy to know that the Church is not the only one that is helping you, taking care of you; there is the local government represented by the honorable governor, and there are international organizations who are helping you,” he continued.
“The best thing is that there is cooperation between different agencies,” he said. “I encourage this collaboration, this cooperation; it is very important because when we put our forces, maybe they are not so big, they are not powerful, but when we put [them] together, we achieve something better than when we act alone.”
The Vatican official encouraged the refugees and returnees from Sudan to “remain strong and patient amidst the hardships and tough times.”
“I assure you of our prayers and closeness of the pope. Be strong, be patient. By the grace of God, the help of all the good people in this world will find a solution to your situation,” Parolin said.
Earlier, addressing journalists after meeting South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Aug. 14, the Vatican official urged the people of God in the world’s youngest nation to “embrace the spirit of peace and reconciliation in order to build a harmonious society in the country.”
He was set to visit the Diocese of Rumbek on Aug. 17, where he would preside over Mass at Holy Family Cathedral of the South Sudanese Diocese and interact with members of the clergy, women and men religious, and laity before returning to Juba.
This story was originally published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.