Parolin among displaced people in South Sudan: “God will not forget you”

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin of the Vatican celebrated mass at the Bentiu refugee camp in northern South Sudan, which has over 140,000 people, more than half of whom are children. On Wednesday, a meeting with representatives and local government officials was held.

Mario Galgano and Salvatore Cernuzio (Correspondent for South Sudan) – Vatican

Three of them are playing Boeing, which has crashed in one of the vast expanses of red earth. The others are barefoot or naked, bathing in the Nile, or rinsing their skinny legs in one of the puddles, which are green or orange depending on the number of plastic bottles in them. They wear pink tulle dresses or Inter and Milan shirts that are two sizes too large, and graze cows and goats on mounds of earth that have been erected to contain floods. It is the children, so many children, who are the subject of the second day of Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s visit to Juba in Bentiu, an area in the north of the country where the displaced persons camp of the same name is located. Last year, cases of hepatitis and cholera drew the world’s attention to a country famous for its very poor sanitation and water conditions. In this space of white tents and tin huts, covered poles that serve as shelter, the Secretary of State celebrated Holy Mass today, reminding us that God hears the cry of those who suffer from injustice, abuse and persecution.

Arrival by UN plane

After flying over rivers and forests for nearly two hours, Parolin arrived Wednesday at dawn in a 15-seater UN plane in this desert region where the only breeze to tame the almost 41-degree heat raises scarlet dust so that it sticks to clothes sticks and smartphones. The cardinal is welcomed by a group of women who celebrate him by presenting him with a white tunic and wreaths of flowers. There are more children behind them. A group of young men in huge hats and full skirts stand in front of the cardinal: “Hello Eminence,” says the eldest, and after bowing, she begins to move her arms and pelvis in a tribal dance followed by her companions. Together they get into the open trunk of the jeep. There must be about ten of them. Even less compared to other vehicles that carry up to 25-30 people. They escort the cardinal’s car to the center of Bentiu, where a meeting with members of the local board of governors takes place. Informal meeting to exchange greetings and reaffirm the desire for peace and development.

children in South Sudan

Entrance to the city

The road to the city is a constant slalom between huge puddles, fallen donkeys and carts of soldiers with Kalashnikovs, “the most common weapon in this area,” as the locals say. After about twenty minutes, the cardinal appears at the gates of the city. Hundreds poured out onto the streets from their tukulas, typical houses of straw and wicker wood covered with dried mud. Children, children and even more children line up in the two rows that make up the corridor for the cardinal; Men play leather drums, women spread blankets on the floor in the mud. Many probably didn’t even explain the meaning of the event that took place in their huts, but all celebrated, applauded and sang Hallelujah on their knees and with their eyes closed while the sun shone on their foreheads.

The cardinal tries to shake the hand of the front row, but even reaching out can crush him. Children seem to take great pleasure in receiving something as simple as high-five. They follow passers-by and shout, “Brother, brother!”, Raise their thumbs or wave their fists. They can’t wait to be photographed by cameras and cell phones. Likewise, the women who first cordoned off the Cardinal Secretary of State, crooked smiles and sweat bead running down their scars, tribal scars arranged like rows of dots. They are a symbol of beauty for the local culture.

A blessing in the church

In the midst of this crowd, Parolin enters the parish of St. Martine de Porres. It is not a church typical of Western Europeans, but a huge, dark hut illuminated by two rows of small altar boys with a green candle. They sing to the cardinal, who is looked after by three old women who bring him linen slippers as a sign of hospitality. Parolin is touched when he takes the microphone: “I did not come of my own free will, but to convey to you the love of Pope Francis. I have come to prepare for his coming like John the Baptist. The Pope wants to come to South Sudan, he is planning a trip to Juba, but the visit is for the whole country, to meet all the people – says the cardinal. Translated by the priest into the local language of Nuer, the Cardinal asks for prayer for the Pope, adding: “I am glad to be here and share your faith and joy. You are really good Christians, good Catholics. “

Cardinal Parolin in Bentiu

Cardinal Parolin in Bentiu

Meeting with representatives of UNMISS

The next stop is the containers of UNMISS, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, where the Cardinal meets Paul Ebweko, Chief of Mission for South Sudan, and assures him that “the Holy See appreciates what for.” the population of the camp is complete. ” Once again, the cardinal returns to the northern area by car to drive into the camp and celebrate Mass. It is hard to describe the reception of a secretary of state who was immediately ushered into the jeep. Standing erect, sheltered from the sun with a yellow umbrella, he begins to salute and does not stop the entire ten kilometers in front of the barbed wire gates that mark the entrance to the camp. It greets over 140,000 residents of the center who sing, wave flags, and show photos of St. Josephine Bakhita and chase the car. Some try to get closer, but the volunteers push them away with wooden sticks. Many are barefoot, their legs and hands are dripping with dust, and there are flies all over their bodies. In some places, the smell of animal excrement and standing water makes you sick. And yet, you can not help but rejoice with them when they show themselves to the guests, happy.

Mass in the evacuation camp

The fair takes place on the camp square, where the hut is decorated with tents and garlands. The girls in big hats are back, now with little girls dressed in white doing what looks like a procession to the sounds of a small keyboard. Parolin begins his sermon in English with the words: “We are in this difficult country, but it is always loved by God,” Parolin said. Then he speaks of hope, the hope of the Gospel, which “is not an incorporeal hope, detached from suffering and unaware of human tragedy” or “not taking into account the very difficult reality of the inhabitants of Bentiu”. On the contrary: “Our history makes us cry out to the Lord, asks us to bring before his altar the injustices, abuses, and persecutions that too many of us still suffer; but we know that this cry will be heard and redeemed by God, a cry that He himself will turn into a song of joy, if we know how to ask forgiveness for our persecutors and pray for those who have wronged us. “

At the end of the mass, a hymn of joy resounds and the cardinal tries to shake as many hands as possible in order to revive and embody the Pope’s love, which is the true purpose of the entire trip to Africa.

(Vatican news)

children in South Sudan

children in South Sudan

Leave a Comment