The Vatican announced it was establishing diplomatic relations with South Sudan, but a Church official in Juba said the move was unlikely to happen soon.
The move means South Sudan will open an embassy in the Vatican, while the Church will open an apostolic nunciature in Juba.
Archbishop Leo Boccardi, papal nuncio to Sudan and Eritrea, will continue to represent the Vatican in South Sudan.
“The news that we’ll have a nunciature here, and it doesn’t matter if it takes six months or two years or more, is a big deal,” Father Nicholas Kiri Bate, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Juba, told Catholic News Service.
While the news was welcomed by many in South Sudan, it also underscored serious tensions within the Church hierarchy.
A move by South Sudan’s Catholic bishops to break away from their colleagues in Sudan and form a separate episcopal conference was squelched by the Vatican last year.