Ameyu Martin: South Sudanese priest who survived damning claims to become a cardinal

Tuesday July 11 2023
Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin. PHOTO | FILE


Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin, who was named one of three cardinals by Pope Francis on Sunday, would not have made it to become a prince of the Catholic Church if a group of protesters opposed to his elevation from Torit diocese to Juba archdiocese in 2019 had had their way.

The Catholic Church-affiliated news agency ACI Africa reports that when he was nominated to head the metropolitan archdiocese, a group that included priests and some lay people, all from the Bari ethnic community, claimed that the archbishop-elect "has two concubines and six biological children"; that some clerics of the Archdiocese of Juba, together with government officials, had conspired with officials of the Nunciature of South Sudan to promote the Bishop of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan for their own personal interests.

The protesters did not specify the alleged personal interests, nor did they name the officials who were allegedly the future beneficiaries of the appointment.

Other new cardinals from Africa include Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town in South Africa and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the former secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelisation, who was appointed coadjutor archbishop for the Tanzanian archdiocese of Tabora on 13 April.

They are among 21 Catholic Church leaders to be made cardinals at the next consistory (council of cardinals), which the Pope has set for 30 September.

The protests against Archbishop Ameyu later turned ugly when a group of youths attacked clerics based in Juba. A group of youths identified as members of the dominant ethnic group in the archdiocese, the Bari, stormed the priests' residence in the parish, beating and injuring one cleric, while two managed to escape.


But the Pope stood his ground and in March 2020, Ameyu was appointed Archbishop serving as an important step that saw him elevated to the high office of Cardinal on Sunday.

Read: Pope Francis arrives in South Sudan

Commenting on his promotion, Ameyu said his elevation to cardinal was for the people of God in a country seeking lasting peace, not for his personal interests.

"We want to thank the Lord for giving us the gift of elevation," Archbishop Ameyu told journalists in Juba on Monday 10 July, adding, "This is not an elevation for one person but for the whole Church."

The 59-year-old Cardinal-designate told ACI Arica: "The elevation of His Holiness Pope Francis has given us a challenge as a Church, a Church that is struggling to bring peace to our people."

For his part, Archbishop Brislin said he was "surprised" by his appointment. "I was surprised and to be honest I feel quite confused and bewildered at the moment," he said.

From Tanzania, Archbishop Rugambwa said he would continue to provide the leadership expected of him as a cardinal.

"I look forward to continuing to promote what is expected of any pastor and Church leader entrusted with the same office and responsibilities that I am assuming," he said.