Pope Francis in Touch with Church Leaders to Realize Postponed Ecumenical Visit to Africa

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

Pope Francis is in contact with the head of the Anglican Communion and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in view of realizing their postponed ecumenical trip to South Sudan.

In a conversation with reporters on the flight from Rome to Kazakhstan on September 13, the Holy Father said he recently had a zoom meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, the immediate successor of Jim Wallace, about the African trip.

“I spoke the other day with Archbishop Welby [Archbishop of Canterbury and symbolic head of the Anglican Communion ed.] and we saw February (2023) as a possibility for going to South Sudan,” Pope Francis said.

He added in reference to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), “And if I go to South Sudan, I will also go to Congo.”

“We are trying. All three of us have to go together: the head of the Church of Scotland, Archbishop Welby, and myself. We had a meeting via Zoom the other day about this,” the Holy Father said.


On June 10, Matteo Bruni, the Holy See Press Office Director, announced the postponement “with regret” of the Holy Father’s third  trip to Africa.

“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, planned for 2 to 7 July, to a later date to be determined,” Mr. Bruni stated.

Pope Francis has been suffering from a torn ligament in his right knee, limiting his ability to walk. On May 19, he used a wheelchair during a public meeting, the first time he had done so publicly since leaving the hospital after colon surgery in July 2021.

In the program the Holy See published on May 28, Pope Francis’ 37th Apostolic Visit abroad was to begin in the capital city of DRC, Kinshasa on July 2, and conclude on July 7 in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.

On June 12, Pope Francis said he was praying to reschedule the Apostolic trip to DRC and the ecumenical visit to South Sudan “as soon as possible”.

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In his remarks after his Angelus reflection for pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Holy Trinity, Pope Francis expressed optimism and asked the people of God to join him in praying for the realization of the two-African-nation pastoral visit.

He apologized to authorities of the two African nations for having to postpone the six-day trip.

On June 13, the Holy Father reiterated his intention to reschedule his African trip.

Speaking at the start of his audience with members of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on June 13, Pope Francis said, “Unfortunately, with great regret, I had to postpone the trip to Congo and South Sudan.”

The 85-year-old Pontiff added, “Indeed, at my age, it is not so easy to go on a mission trip! But your prayers and example give me courage, and I am confident that I can visit these peoples, whom I carry in my heart.”


On July 2, the day he was previously scheduled to arrive in South Sudan, Pope Francis sent a video message urging the people of God in DRC and South Sudan not to let themselves “be robbed of hope” despite his decision to postpone his pastoral trip to the two African nations.

On July 5, Archbishop Welby and Greenshields assured the people of God in South Sudan that their ecumenical pilgrimage that was postponed would be realized.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.