Ahead of the historic joint visit to South Sudan with Pope Francis and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Archbishop of Canterbury urges people to pray for South Sudanese people enduring ongoing conflict and famine.
By Lisa Zengarini
As he prepares to embark on the Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace to South Sudan, with Pope Francis and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Dr Iain Greenshields, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has urged the faithful to join in prayer for the people in the conflict-torn African nation.
The three Church leaders will be visiting South Sudan from 3rd to 5th February as part of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan which begins on Tuesday 31st January.
The unprecedented Ecumenical Pilgrimage, also marks the first-ever visit by a Roman Catholic Pope to the country.
A much awaited visit
In a statement released on Sunday, the Primate of the Anglican Communion expressed his profound gratefulness for visiting the people of South Sudan with Pope Francis, and Dr Greenshields, recalling that they have prayed for several years for this visit, which has been postponed twice since 2018.
The Archbishop of Canterbury explained they are making their Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace “as servants” to “amplify the cries of the South Sudanese people” who continue to suffer from conflict, flooding and famine.
Noting that over the past three years and even since July 2022, violence has intensified in many parts of South Sudan, the English Primate said they hope to review and renew the commitments made by South Sudanese leadership during the spiritual retreat convened in the Vatican in 2019 , and the commitments they have made to their people since then.
“We come as brothers in Christ to worship together and witness to the God who reconciles us. The communities of South Sudan have a legacy of powerful witness to their faith. Through working together, they have been a sign and instrument of the reconciliation God desires for their whole country and all of creation. We hope to build on and reenergise that legacy.”
An ecumenical pilgrimage of peace
Archbishop Welby also highlighted the ecumenical dimension of the 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
“We come as followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, knowing that his Holy Spirit is at work in South Sudan and has the power to transform hearts”, the Primate concluded.
Archbishop Welby will be accompanied in South Sudan by his wife, Mrs Caroline Welby, who has made several previous visits to the county to support women in the Church in their role as peacebuilders, particularly the wives of South Sudan’s Anglican bishops and archbishops. Mrs Welby has said that the women of South Sudan are “incredible women of strength”, many of whom bear the trauma of displacement, sexual violence and the daily fear of mistreatment in their own communities.
Besides all the joint public engagements with Pope Francis and Rev. Greenshields during the visit, Archbishop Welby is expected to preside a worship service at All Saints Anglican Cathedral in Juba on Saturday 4th February.