Bishops representing the nine dioceses of Africa's largest country are at the Vatican this week for their "ad Limina visit." Among the contemporary issues the bishops will discuss with Pope Benedict are the upcoming elections, keeping peace and addressing poverty.
Speaking with Vatican Radio, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek in southern Sudan described some of the issues facing the Catholic Church and the people in the nation.
The meetings in the Vatican, he said, have an "immense value" in the days leading up to presidential and parliamentary elections that are set to take place on April 11. He expressed his hope that through a Vatican appeal this week the country can ensure a "serene road" to the elections and see a "true consolidation of peace."
A peace accord was signed in 2005 in Sudan that separated the parliament and the military, Bishop Mazzolari explained. This process is moving forward "very slowly," he said, and peace is fragile.
As for the Christian-majority regions in the south of the country, Bishop Mazzolari said that "the greatest poverty" of the people there is the lack of identity. With an identity, which has historically been denied them under the Islamic government, the people would be able to take responsibility for their destiny, he said.
After discovering their identity and capacity, they will better be able to make use of resources in the country and develop.
"In the meantime, however, we live in the poverty of insecurity and also the Church is poor and walks with the poor."
Bishop Mazzolari also said that the Church is working to help those in Darfur. There, he added, "we continue to exercise a constructive influence but with great difficulty."
The Sudanese bishops will be in the Vatican until March 13, reporting about the Church in Sudan and completing a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.