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South Sudan visit to be ‘pilgrimage of peace’ says Archbishop of Canterbury

29 January 2023

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All Saints’ Cathedral, Juba

All Saints’ Cathedral, Juba

THE Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet the President and Vice-Presidents of the Republic of South Sudan, and preach in All Saints’ Cathedral, Juba, during his visit to the country this week.

Archbishop Welby is due to fly out on Friday 3 February, returning on Sunday — the day before the start of the next meeting of the General Synod in Church House, Westminster, in London.

The ecumenical visit of Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields, was first announced last May, and had been due to take place in July. It was postponed, however, because of the Pope’s mobility issues at the time (News, 17 June 2022), and later rescheduled to this week (News, 9 December 2022).

On Sunday, Archbishop Welby urged people to pray for the people of South Sudan, describing the ecumenical visit as a pilgrimage of peace.

“We have prayed for many years for this visit — and we now look forward to being in Juba together in only a few days’ time,” he said.

“Our visit is a Pilgrimage of Peace. We come as servants — to listen to and amplify the cries of the South Sudanese people, who have suffered so much and continue to suffer because of conflict, devastating flooding, widespread famine and much more.

“Over the past three years and even since July, violence has intensified in many parts of the country. We hope to review and renew the commitments made by South Sudanese leadership at the Vatican in 2019 [News, 12 April 2019], and the commitments they have made to their people since then.”

The faith leaders hoped, Archbishop Welby said, that they could uphold the legacy of the Christian communities in the country.

“This will be a historic visit. After centuries of division, leaders of three different parts of the Church are coming together in an unprecedented way, and in so doing are seeking to be part of answering another prayer — Jesus’ prayer — that his followers might be one — “ut unum sint” (John.17). . . His love and welcome are on offer to all. It is through him that we find our deepest peace and our most profound hopes for justice. And so I ask you to pray with us for the people of South Sudan.”

His wife, Caroline Welby, is joining him on the trip. She has made several previous visits to South Sudan to support women in the Church. “I find myself humbled by their stories,” she said. “They have borne the grief of war and carry the responsibility to provide for their families. Many of them live with the trauma of displacement in their own country, refugees in other countries, sexual violence and the daily fear of mistreatment in their own homes and communities.

“And yet they are also incredible women of strength, praising God and coming to him for their refreshment. It is a privilege to walk alongside them, and I pray that their example is held up in South Sudan and around the world.”

Archbishop Welby is due to meet the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, in the Presidential Palace shortly after arriving on Friday. The Archbishop will then meet in the palace garden representatives of the authorities, civil-society groups, and the diplomatic corps.

On Saturday, he is due preach during a service of prayer in All Saints’ Cathedral (the Pope and the Moderator have separate programmes for that morning), before meeting people displaced by conflict in Freedom Hall. He is due to attend an ecumenical prayer service in the John Garang Mausoleum that evening.

On Sunday, the Archbishop is due to attend mass in the John Garang Mausoleum, before a farewell ceremony at Juba International Airport.

Last week, the Archbishop of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi-Arama, warned that moves to bless same-sex unions in England would exacerbate divisions in the Anglican Communion (News, 25 January). But Lambeth em­­phasised this week that the focus of Archbishop Welby’s visit will be on peace-making. Archbishop Badi would host him in the usual way.

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