The Pope will journey to South Sudan this February following a delay due to the Holy Father’s ill health.
Originally scheduled for July this year, the Pope will now travel with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields from 3-5 February.
The visit is unprecedented in the history of ecumenical relations between the three Christian denominations.
The visit was originally announced in 2019 during a Vatican spiritual retreat as South Sudanese political leaders committed to co-operating for the good of their people.
The Holy Father had said that he thought of ‘South Sudan and the plea for peace arising from its people who, weary of violence and poverty, await concrete results from the process of national reconciliation.’
“I would like to contribute to that process, not alone, but by making an ecumenical pilgrimage together with two dear brothers, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.”
Though the youngest nation-state in the world, being established in 2011, South Sudan’s history has been mired by conflict and human rights abuses.
Rt Rev Dr Ian Greenshields said it is a ‘privilege’ to join Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury on what he called a ‘historic Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace to South Sudan’.
Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh said he was pleased that his ‘friend the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields will take part in the Holy Father’s ecumenical peace pilgrimage’.
“It will help create a closer and more effective bond in the light of common problems and challenges,” he said.
“It also builds upon the friendship that was confirmed in the recent St Margaret Declaration.”
Archbishop Welby said that after ‘much waiting’ he was ‘very pleased that this historic visit’ will take place.
“Together we share a deep desire to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan, to review and renew the commitments its leaders made at the Vatican in 2019,” he said.
“We pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work throughout and after this visit, bringing the peace promised by Christ.
“Please pray for the people of South Sudan.”