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Daring catholic pilgrims arrive in Juba ahead of Pope’s visit

By Adia Jildo

Several pilgrims from the countryside are flocking the capital ahead of Pope Francis visit on Friday in a rare show of faith unheard of in South Sudan.

Jacob Madiit Makoi, one of the 84 pilgrims from Lakes state to arrive in Juba on Thursday, said he was relieved after spending 9 days and nights along the 192 kilometer Juba-Terekeka-Rumbek road.

Makoi and his colleagues were flagged off at Rumbek diocese on January 25th and endured all hardships on their trek without security incident.

“We moved every morning starting till 2 PM in the night; the journey was too beautiful because whenever we got tired on the way, we would get other people joining us, we got motivated by this every single time,” he told Juba Echo as the group made it’s way in Bilpharm suburb on the outskirts of Juba.

Makoi a staunch Catholic faithful said the pilgrim brought unity among communities that were once hostile to each other in the past.

Adding that the successful completion of the journey goes to highlight how South Sudan has of recent become peaceful and secure.

Bishop Christian Carlassare, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek who led the pilgrims, said they moved for 25 kilometer on daily basis till reaching Juba.

 “It has been a beautiful experience of communion for the youth that were participating in the walk and for those communities that we encountered,” said Carlassare.

He said Pope Francis’s itinerary will see the pontiff bless the country and encourage all citizens to unite to build a peaceful country after years of brutal conflict since December 2013.

Carlassare called on South Sudanese people to come together and listen to the message of peace from the Pope, forgive one another and reconcile for a peaceful coexistence.

“Let us gather together to receive the blessing of God through the Holy Father, and let us continue to walk as a community bounded in faith and love,” he said.

Sister Orla Treacy, the Director for Rumbek Diocese said the pilgrims have experienced things they had never anticipated before in the country.

“Some had never left Lakes state and have not seen the Nile River either,” she said.

Treacy called on faith leaders to lead by exemplary and always be willing to share ideas with the young people.

“For many years we have not been one, but the people of Rumbek have shown that we are one, we want to show that unity and support can be achieved,” said Treacy.

She called on the people to come out and show the world what South Sudan is all about when Pope Francis sets foot in the country.

Sister Silvester Muteyi, a member of the evangelizing sisters of Mary, said her faith has been renewed during the course of the journey from Rumbek.

“This journey has renewed my faith, this is part of sacrifice and we hope that it will bear fruits of peace in South Sudan,” said Muteyi.

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