Unity and Peace: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today, Sunday February 5, 2023, over 100,000 people gathered in Juba, South Sudan to hear Pope Francis preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of love, hope, peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and UNITY! Through the miracle of technology this number was multiplied to infinity by all those able to watch or listen to this landmark effort on various religious tv and media networks like EWTN. Imagine more than 100,000 people hungry for the good news gathered in person, to hear the Gospel! Finally, there is some sense in the world’s priorities -we see a momentary rival to attendance at a football game for the hunger for our living God!
But there were two greater miracles on this day: In Pope Francis’ current visit to Africa including the Republic of the Congo and the South Sudan, we see Pope Francis pleading for peace and unity in a war torn country full of the pain of displacement and hunger, the latter due to the fruits of war and also famine. We see the compassion of Christ for the people who are hungry, displaced and frightened.
And, remarkably, we also see an unparalleled sign of Christian Unity as this visit was both an Apostolic journey on the Pope’s part and an Ecumenical one, for the leaders of the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches joined with Francis in his plea for peace and unity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the leader of the Church of Scotland, Ian Greenshields, worked together and held Ecumenical Services to make this happen. So we see here an unprecedented and most beautiful example of Christian Unity for the cause of peace and hope in a war torn land. http://reuters.com/world/africa/pope-francis-wraps-up-south-sudan-trip-urging-an-end-violence-2023-02-05/
On the sign shown above telling of Pope Francis’ visit, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I pray that all may be one” (John 17: 20-21). Yet we painfully know that Christianity is divided into innumerable factions throughout the world. And, with the fruits of these wars, the kin-dom of God is impeded as we fight amongst ourselves. We fight as people of various views, cultures, races and nations and as Christian denominations. In I Corinthians 1: 10-13 we see Paul asking “…One of you says ‘I follow Paul’, another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another ‘ I follow Cephas’; still another ‘I follow Christ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you….” From the beginnings of Christianity until now we see divisions in the church.
But in a minor miracle, from February 3rd-5th, in Southern Sudan, we see Christian Unity, not only symbolically but actually. How many of that huge crowd gathered to hear Pope Francis in Juba today were actually Roman Catholic, how many Episcopal, how many Presbyterian, how many other Christian faiths and Muslim or even of no faith? We can never know. Yet all gathered and the Holy Communion of Christ was offered to all, and reverently and eagerly received. For those three days unknown numbers of Christians and others joined to hear the Gospel, and witness the love of Christ. http://vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2023-02/pope-francis-south-sudan-visit-solidarity.html
In his homily Pope Francis empathized with the pain of the South Sudanese people who have been living with tragic violence for over 40years and most recently are trying to recover from horrible civil war, who are living daily with the fruits of war- displacement, hunger and fear . One source notes that there are 7.7 million people in South Sudan and 7 million of them suffer with hunger. So those gathered were hungry for the Gospel, and many also, perhaps for food. All needed hope for their future.
Pope Francis began: “….I gather here with you in the name of Jesus Christ, the God of love, the God who achieved peace through his cross; Jesus, the God crucified for us all; Jesus, crucified in those who suffer; Jesus, crucified in the lives of so many of you, in so many people in this country; Jesus, the risen Lord, the victor over evil and death. I have come here to proclaim him and to confirm you in him,for the message of Christ is a message of hope. Jesus knows your anguish and the hope you bear in your hearts, the joys and struggles that mark your lives, the darkness that assails you and the faith that, like a song in the night, you raise to heaven. Jesus knows and loves you….every cross will turn into a resurrection,every sadness into hope, and every lament into dancing”.
Indeed the music at this Mass was so beautiful and the liturgical dancing was so moving as sadness was turned into hope. We felt as one with our brothers and sisters in Juba. There was solidarity with the people of South Sudan and all Christians and all people who seek hope and justice. Pope Francis went on to preach on the Gospel of the day Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth….” and ” You are the Light of the World”. Salt both flavors and preserves, often in a subtle manner. Salt is also a metaphor for wisdom. One does not have to do big things to flavor life with a little salt that brings out the flavors of what is before us. But one has to bring the compassion of Christ to the darkness, to be the light when all seems hopeless. Francis charged the Church in Juba with continuing to be the light in the darkness caused by the ravages of war and famine. Indeed, light will show the ways to recover as all need food and homes and peace. He saw them as “those who unleash love and belief in God.” He concluded “May hope and peace dwell in South Sudan”. ( One can find this and all of his homilies on https://www.popefrancishomilies.com )
Pope Francis also spoke with women and noted the exemplary life of African Saint, St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita, patron of modern Sudan and human trafficking survivors. Her life is a statement against the brutal history of slavery as when she was but a child in the Sudan she was captured from her village by Arab slave-traders and enslaved in another part of the Sudan. She endured four cruel slave masters before being bought by Italians who brought her to Italy where she was declared free and treated kindly. She eventually became a Canossian religious sister whose gentle kindness, joy and devoutness touched all around her . She was called Madre Moretta, (Black Mother). Her Saint’s Day Feast is February 8th.
Pope Francis also praised the women of the church that he met in South Sudan. While we still wish that he would extend this genuine concern for women who are oppressed to Roman Catholic Women Priests who are now excommunicated priests throughout the world including in South Africa, we recognize him for his love and compassion for all of the people of South Sudan, and Africa. We go one step at a time and we applaud this wonderful effort at Christian Unity.
Thanks be to God!
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of Southwest Florida
Thank you for this inspiring message.
Thank you for your charitable works and prophetic message…..The message of Christ is caring, bold and so so old…when will we listen to what Pope Francis has said? I am new here in SW Florida, a semi-retired Bishop and Vicar of Military Chaplain services. I was in the Roman Rite and excardinated over into the Old Catholic Church Rite…I can be reached at 239-247-5700…MKCarroll33@gmail.com
Thank you, we are united in Christ.
Beautiful message other than the glaring ongoing disdain for the full inclusion of women through Ordination!