Last December the Vatican wrote to Church leaders in South Sudan informing them that it had accepted the retirement of Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro as the head of Juba archdiocese and appointed Bishop Stephen Ameyu Mulla of Torit as his successor.
In normal circumstances the local Catholic community would welcome the news and arrange a suitable farewell to its archbishop. But this was not to be the case in Juba archdiocese. Only after months of turmoil was the new archbishop installed on Sunday, March 22.
Archbishop Loro comes from the Bari tribe and many members of the Bari community wanted him to be succeeded by someone from their tribe.
But the Vatican’s choice as Archbishop of Juba belongs to the Madi community, which felt equally strongly that it was their turn to have one of their own leading the archdiocese.
Those who opposed the appointment bombarded the Vatican with “scathing” letters, reportedly backed by some priests in the archdiocese. Some young people expressed their opposition through public demonstrations. There was even a report that youngsters had “invaded” a priest’s house and attacked him.
The Vatican investigated the claims raised in the letters, sending senior officials to the archdiocese. Ultimately, it decided not withdraw the appointment.
One priest told the Catholic Herald: “The pre-installation action has badly damaged the Church’s image and calls for an effective ‘journey’ towards peace, reconciliation and unity in the Church.
“But only time will tell,” he added.
The new archbishop also appealed for reconciliation.
“What I think has to be done after this is reconciliation and healing because we are deeply wounded,” he said. “Let us go for reconciliation and healing of our own selves. Let us stop provocation and renew our faith.”