CNS PHOTO | PAUL JEFFREY
Seminary students participate in an Oct. 1 Mass in the minor seminary of the Tombura-Yambio Diocese in South Sudan.
Already facing a shortage of priests, the Catholic Church in the world’s newest nation has closed a portion of its seminary, leaving dozens of young men stranded on the road to the priesthood.
When classes start at the end of October at St. Paul’s Major Seminary in Juba, South Sudan, only 64 students will be present. They are in the final two years of theological studies and have been transferred from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, from which the South became independent in 2011.
Given growing harassment and repression of southerners and Christians in the mostly Islamic North, Church leaders decided to move the students to Juba.
Most of the seminarians are from South Sudan anyway, and seminary officials were worried they would not be granted visas if the seminary continued to operate in Khartoum.
“With our independence, (Sudan’s President Omar) al-Bashir got very angry, and life became even more difficult in the North,” Juba Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro told Catholic News Service.
“He said, ‘Southerners, you voted for independence, so leave.’ Our students couldn’t learn there, they were being harassed, and al-Bashir was conscripting them and sending them to his wars, so the seminary was forced to come back to Juba.
“Thank God this happened in April, when our students were on holiday, and many were already back home in the South,” he said.
To make room for the theology students in Juba, scores of seminarians enrolled in philosophy courses have been sent packing.
This comes after a Vatican emissary, Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit, Kenya, came to Sudan and South Sudan earlier this year and gave the seminary a failing grade in its orientation of young priests and the quality of its academic program.