Pope Francis to join church leaders on ‘historic’ visit to South Sudan

The religious leaders have been invited by President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

Pope Francis to join church leaders on ‘historic’ visit to South Sudan iStock

Pope Francis will be joined by the new moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Dr Iain Greenshields on a “historic” peace pilgrimage to South Sudan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will also be on the trip after all three were invited by President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

They will meet with him and his five vice-presidents in the capital city of Juba in July.

The religious leaders will then meet local church leaders and people living in a refugee camp and lead an open-air prayer vigil for peace.

The three churches say they will “stand in solidarity” with millions of ordinary people who are suffering from continued armed conflict, violence, floods and famine.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but civil war broke out two years later.

A peace agreement was signed in 2018 but the economy of the country is still on the brink of collapse.

Pope Francis has described the visit as an “important step” and Dr Greenshields hailed the opportunity to join the pilgrimage as a “privilege”.

He said: “Archbishop Justin Welby and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, two dear brothers, will be my travelling companions when, in a few weeks’ time, we will at last be able to travel to South Sudan.

“Ours will be an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.

“Let us pray that it may inspire Christians in South Sudan and everywhere to be promoters of reconciliation, patient weavers of concord, capable of saying no to the perverse and useless spiral of violence and of arms.”

Church of Scotland moderator Dr Greenshields said: “I am genuinely humbled at the opportunity to assist our brothers and sisters in South Sudan in the search for peace, reconciliation and justice.

“It is a privilege to be joining the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury on this historic ecumenical pilgrimage of peace and we come as servants of the global church.

“It has helped local church leaders work at both a grassroots level and political level to try and bring unnecessary conflict to an end and build lasting peace, stability and unity.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I greatly look forward to this historic pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan with my dear brothers in Christ, Pope Francis and the Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.

“We hope to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan in their great struggles.

“We hope to support and encourage the continued unity of churches for the good of the nation. We hope to encourage political leaders to pursue peace in this remarkable country.

“We pray that the symbolism of our joint visit will show that reconciliation and forgiveness are possible – and that relationships can be transformed.”

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