Pope and Anglican leader appeal for peace in S. Sudan
Vatican Radio/Juba Monitor
The leaders of the Catholic and Anglican faiths have made a joined appeal for peace and an end to the conflict in South Sudan, whose conflict has entered its fourth year as many civilians continue to flee their homes due to insecurity.
Pope Francis met on Friday with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, together with the new director of Rome’s Anglican Centre, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi. Following their half hour encounter in the Apostolic Palace, the two Anglican archbishops and their wives joined the pope for lunch in his Santa Marta residence to continue the conversation.
Vatican Radio reported that on Thursday, the Anglican leader presided at Vespers at Rome’s Caravita church for the installation of Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi as his official representative to the Holy See. The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who previously served as nuncio in Burundi, preached the homily, stressing that ecumenical engagement is a moral imperative for all Christians.
Philippa Hitchen caught up with Archbishop Welby at the end of his brief visit to Rome to find out more about his meeting with the pope and their plans for a joint visit to war-torn South Sudan.
The Anglican Archbishop said his meetings with the pope were “full of meaning, but also full of joy, a good deal of laughter, very relaxed but very thoughtful”. In particularly, he says, they talked about mutual concerns on conflict, human trafficking, and the need for Church unity in a fractured world.
With regards to progress in Anglican-Catholic dialogue, he noted that, like his predecessors during their visits to Rome, he wears the episcopal ring that Pope Paul VI gave to Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966. He said there has been enormous progress towards unity since then and both ARCIC and IARCCUM “continue the theological and missional dialogues very, very effectively”.
Archbishop Welby added saying alongside that, there was ecumenism of action, and of prayer, something which has grown out of the theological work, but is also pushing it forward.
Speaking about the lack of unity in the Eucharist, Archbishop Welby said he is reminded of that each day in Lambeth Palace, celebrating with Catholic and non-Catholic members of the youth community of St. Anselm. It is painful, he said, but in another sense, it is “a healthy pain that compels us to work harder” for unity.
With regards to appeal to South Sudan’s leaders, when asked about a joint visit to South Sudan, the Anglican leader said, “a visit like that has to be done at a moment when it can make an enormous difference” and “tip the balance towards peace”.
He said that he and the Holy Father (Pope Francis) have called on the political leaders “to turn away from violence and think of the people in South Sudan”. He recalled a recent visit to refugee settlements in northern Uganda housing 260.000 people, a small fraction of those who’ve fled the violence. We are “waiting and praying” for a change of heart from the political leaders, Archbishop Welby said.
Commenting about divisions within the Anglican world, in particular over homosexuality, Archbishop Welby said “you can’t be paralised by disagreements”, which all Churches are currently facing. In a communion as diverse as the Anglican world, he added, there are bound to be disagreements “but we have to see the call of Christ to be united in the service of the poor and not let anything distract us from the proclamation of the Good News.”
Pope Francis and Dr. Justin Welby were scheduled to travel to South Sudan on 15th of this month, but the visit was postponed due to unknown reasons. Members of the Sudan and South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference are still optimistic that the Pope and the Anglican leader would still make it to South Sudan one day.