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Preparing for the Jubilee

Preparing for the Jubilee
A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Sudan
24 August 1999


Resurrection of the Church

Hundred Years of the Resurrection of the Church: The Madhi revolution had destroyed all the work done by Blessed Comboni between 1846 to 1882 and the first generation of missionaries. In 1899 missionaries began from scratch to build christian communities which now number 3.5 million. While the churches in the Middle East which had survived for centuries in a Muslim milieu are threatened in their existence, in northern Sudan an Arab-speaking church is growing.

Catholic Hierarchy and Memory of the Pioneers

The Sudanese Catholic Hierarchy and the Memory of the Pioneers of Faith in the Sudan have reached 25 years. In 1964 the missionaries were expelled from the country as a result of the Missionary Act of 1962. Naturally, this threatened the very existence of the church.
However, in spite of the hardships facing the local church, by 1974 local Catholic Bishops took over where the missionaries left. Today, there are 12 Bishops, 210 local priests, over 200 major seminaries, 271 sisters, 65 brothers and 3,410 catechists.
After 25 years, the first generation of the Sudan Bishops are handing over the faith they received to a new generation into the next millenium, old pioneers to the new pioneers.

Blessed Bakhita

The Canonisation of Blessed Bakhita: On October 1st 2000 the Pope will canonise blessed Bakhita who has become the most popular Saint in Sudan and she enjoys a great devotion. For this event and for the Congress of the family and the youth, pilgrimages to Rome are planned.

The III Eucharistic Congress

Celebration will climax in two national events in October.
  • The re-consecrating of the church in Sudan to the Blessed Virgin on the feast of the Rosary.
  • A Eucharistic Congress with the climax on the feast of Christ the King.

Pastoral Problems

The Bishops of Sudan are also looking at some of the problems that could prevent christians from enjoying fully the graces and indulgences linked with the Holy Year.
  • How can people receive individual absolution in areas where priests reach only once a year and face huge crowds?
  • The canonical form of marriage and the custom of dowry make it impossible for many Catholics living in war situations to realise. How to help them?

Pastoral Initiatives

Some Bishops have come up with creative and courageous pastoral initiatives during the years leading to the Jubilee.
  • The Church in the Sudan is a church of young people. The Archdiocese of Khartoum organised a special Synod for the Youth to have a forum where young people can articulate their dreams and make their contribution to the life of the Church.
  • There will be also Celebration of the Known and the Unknown Martyrs The church in the Sudan is build on the blood of martyrs and the heroic witness of faith not only of the missionaries, but of countless catechists and ordinary lay people who in recent years evangelised many areas where the missionaries never succeeded. These celebrations, planned on local and national level, aim to give the young generation of christians a sense of their identity. Identifying with the pioneers of their faith they will understand their call to be pioneers in their own time and place and to ‘hand on’ the faith of their forefathers.
Like the early church, christians in the Sudan live under constant threat of their very existence. But like the first generation of disciples, they also experience the presence and power of the Lord who gives them the strength to endure and the joy to celebrate.