The Republic of South Sudan officially became the newest African nation July 9, a reality that was a long time coming for the long-suffering people of that region. (For background, you can check my OSV story on this subject HERE.)
A CBS News story reported on the country's independence day celebration:
"The eyes of the world are now on us," said South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who was inaugurated during a scorching midday ceremony. Kiir stressed that the people of South Sudan must advance their country together, and unite as countrymen first, casting aside allegiances to the dozens of tribes that reside here.
Saturday meant that South Sudan and its black tribesmen would for the first time be linked politically with sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya and Uganda are already laying strong economic ties with their northern neighbor, an oil-rich country that may one day ship its oil to a Kenyan port, instead of through the pipelines controlled by Khartoum.
"From today our identity is southern and African, not Arabic and Muslim," read a hand-painted sign that one man carried as he walked through the crowds.
South Sudan first celebrated its new status with a a raucous street party at midnight. At a packed midday ceremony, the speaker of parliament read a proclamation of independence as the flag of Sudan was lowered and the flag of South Sudan was raised, sparking wild cheers from a crowd tens of thousands strong.
Here's what Catholic Relief Services had to say about this historic occasion:
Still, many expected a renewal of violence. But this newest nation came to life against all odds when a peaceful and orderly referendum in January saw 98% of Southern Sudanese casting their votes for independence. The people of South Sudan now need Catholics in the United States to stand with them as they begin to build a better future.
Thankfully, a bright constellation of Catholic leaders is deeply engaged with bringing about a peaceful transition for the citizens in the South as well as the North.
"We are privileged to be among those called upon to help grow this nation," said Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), who was among the official United States delegation invited to witness the Independence Day ceremony. CRS has provided relief to over one million people in Sudan for many years prior to and during the civil war.
Whispers in the Loggia had this commentary on the Catholic presence in this part of Sudan:
Having birthed one of the more prominent modern saints, the Sudanese-born Italian nun Mother Josephine Bakhita, who had been a slave until her mid-20s, the church's presence in the new nation runs strong and deep -- the father of the South's independence, John Garang, was buried from the Juba cathedral after his 2005 death in a helicopter crash, and the state's first President, Salva Kiir (a Catholic), isn't just a weekly attendee at St Therese, but has routinely delivered messages to the people from its pulpit.
In his inaugural address yesterday, Kiir repeated his long-standing call for forgiveness after the long, bloody conflict.
To read Rocco Palmo's full post, click HERE. H/t to him for the link to the video clip above of an earlier Mass celebration among Catholic Sudanese.