“A historic visit”: Archbishop of Canterbury on Ecumenical Trip to South Sudan

Pope Francis and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at the Vatican on Oct. 5, 2021. Vatican Media

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said the planned ecumenical visit to be undertaken alongside Pope Francis and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields later this week is “historic”.

In a statement issued Sunday, January 29, Archbishop Welby says the visit will also “amplify the cries” of the people of God in the East-Central African nation.

“I am profoundly grateful to be visiting the people of South Sudan with my dear brothers in Christ, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the Rt. Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,” Archbishop Welby says.

He adds, “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.”

“This will be a historic visit,” he says, and adds, “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).”


The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury underscores the nature of the trip to South Sudan, saying, “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,” he laments the violent conflicts in South Sudan.

Archbishop Welby expresses optimism, saying, “We hope to review and renew the commitments made by South Sudanese leadership at 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,” he further says in his January 29 message, and continues, “The communities of South Sudan have a legacy of powerful witness to their faith.”

Through collaborative initiatives, South Sudanese communities “have been a sign and instrument of the reconciliation God desires for their whole country and all of creation,” the Anglican Archbishop further says, adding, “We hope to build on and re-energise that legacy.”

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Pope Francis has left Rome and set to arrive in Kinshasa on Tuesday, January 31, the first stop of his Apostolic journey to DRC and South Sudan.

Before leaving his residence, Casa Santa Marta, and heading to the airport, the Holy Father met a dozen migrants and refugees from DRC and South Sudan welcomed and supported with their families from the Centro Astalli. The migrants and refugees were accompanied by Konrad Cardinal Krajewski, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the service of Charity.

Upon arriving at Fiumicino Airport, the Holy Father's car stopped briefly near the “Fallen of Kindu Monument”, the 13 Italian airmen killed in DRC on 11 November 1961.

Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

To the victims of that bloody massacre and to all those who lost their lives participating in humanitarian and peace missions, Pope Francis dedicated a prayer, and then proceeded in the direction of the plane that is to take him to DRC and South Sudan, for his latest Apostolic Journey.


Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In Kinshasa, he is scheduled to meet with DRC authorities, victims of the conflict in the Eastern part of the country and representatives of charitable organizations, celebrate Holy Mass, meet with young people, Catholic Bishops, and Jesuits in the Central African nation before embarking on the second leg of his two-African-nation trip.

Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In his January 29 message, the Archbishop of Canterbury looks toward the South Sudan ecumenical visit, saying, “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.”

“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,” the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury says, and implores, “I ask you to pray with us for the people of South Sudan.”

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During the South Sudan visit, the three church leaders are scheduled to meet the country’s political leaders, hold an open-air ecumenical prayer vigil for peace and meet with people displaced by the conflict.

The January 31- February 5 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan marks Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa.

The journey will be the first-ever Papal visit to South Sudan and the third Papal trip to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

In his Angelus address on Sunday, January 29, Pope Francis asked “everyone” to accompany his Apostolic journey to the two African countries “with their prayers”.

The Holy Father who was speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace also expressed his love for pilgrims in DRC and South Sudan, saying, “I greet with affection those beloved peoples who await me.”