Pope on Sudan: “The country I most want to visit”

Rhoda greeting Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani)

Rhoda greets Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani)

As we were tightly packed on the deck of the Sydney 2000, I couldn’t help but be privy to another pilgrim’s poignant moment with the Holy Father.

Representing Sudan, Rhoda is an invited participant in the International Liturgy Group. As such, she was also among the eleven ILG members chosen to meet Pope Benedict XVI as he travelled by boat to Barangaroo on Thursday.

Rhoda didn’t appear nervous as she knelt before him and kissed his ring. Their ensuing conversation laid bare both of their hearts.

“Please visit my country,” Rhoda pleaded. Though this was no doubt a moment of elation, you could tell from her expression that she carried heavy concerns from her homeland.

“Sudan is the country I most want to visit,” was the pontiff’s surprising response. I confirmed these words with Rhoda afterwards.

Again looking into his eyes, her encounter ended as she asked the Holy Father to pray for her nation, to which he replied that he would continue to do so.

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