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Ecumenical trip to South Sudan rescheduled for early February

06 December 2022


Pope Francis receives Archbishop Welby at the Vatican in October 2021

Pope Francis receives Archbishop Welby at the Vatican in October 2021

THE postponed ecumenical visit to South Sudan of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields, has been rescheduled to February.

The visit was first announced in May (News, 10 June), and had been due to take place in July (News, 8 July), but it was later postponed because of the Pope’s mobility issues (News, 17 June). The Pope, who is 85, has been using a wheelchair because of sciatica, which causes him knee pain and makes standing and walking difficult.

On Thursday of last week, however, it was confirmed that the church leaders would travel to Juba from 3 to 5 February 2023 — the weekend before the General Synod meets in London. They are due to meet President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his five vice-presidents, as well as church representatives and civil war victims living in a displaced persons camp. They will also lead a large open-air prayer vigil for peace.

Archbishop Welby said: “After much waiting, I am very pleased that this historic visit to South Sudan with Pope Francis and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland will be taking place. We come as servants: together we share a deep desire to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan in their suffering, to review and renew the commitments its leaders made at the Vatican in 2019.

“We pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work throughout and after this visit, bringing the peace promised by Christ. Please pray for the people of South Sudan.”

Pope Francis said: “I think of South Sudan and the plea for peace arising from its people who, weary of violence and poverty, await concrete results from the process of national reconciliation.

“I would like to contribute to that process, not alone, but by making an ecumenical pilgrimage together with two dear brothers, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.”

Dr Greenshields said: “I am delighted that our prayers have been answered and Pope Francis’s health has improved to enable this vitally important visit to go ahead. I am genuinely humbled at the opportunity to support our brothers and sisters in South Sudan in the search for peace, reconciliation and justice.”

He concluded: “There is still much work to do and the symbolism of this historic ecumenical visit sends out a very strong message about our steadfast commitment to standing in solidarity with the churches and people of this country that it might flourish, and be good for all.”

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