Damian Thompson

A hero bishop, a human disaster... and the Pachamama

A hero bishop, a human disaster... and the Pachamama
Text settings

What exactly is the role of a bishop – Catholic or Anglican – in the modern West? They spend a certain amount of time in church, of course, but what they love best is a committee meeting. And 'dialogue' with various groups. Sometimes they combine the two and have 'mutually enriching dialogue' at committee meetings.

On today's Holy Smoke I meet a different sort of bishop: one whose most important dialogue is with armed warlords and their teenage mercenaries. He runs a hospital that is desperately short of doctors and medicine amid a humanitarian crisis in which over 200,000 people have died. And he has young men queuing up to become his priests.

He's Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Catholic diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan, the world's newest and perhaps most dangerous country. Please listen to what he has to say about his work – and the apparent corruption of various NGOs who have set up shop in this terribly troubled part of Africa.

I also talk about the other breed of bishop: the time-wasting, virtue-signalling variety, who were heavily represented at the so-called Amazon Synod in Rome, which ended on Sunday. The whole thing ended up in a farcical row about a South American earth-goddess figure called the Pachamama, which the Synod fathers appear to have confused with a depiction of the Virgin Mary...