January ~ 2023 ~ Anglican-Roman Catholic news & opinion
As in previous years, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity L’Osservatore Romano published a series of articles prepared by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity on the ecumenical relations of the Holy See. The texts, which are published in Italian, offer an update on the ecumenical situation and on initiatives undertaken in 2022.
Before beginning their ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan, Pope Francis and the leaders of the Anglican Communion and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland asked Christians around the globe to accompany them with prayers. Pope Francis is scheduled to fly first to Congo for a visit Jan. 31-Feb. 3 before meeting up in Juba, South Sudan, with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland. About 60% of South Sudan’s population is Christian, and the leaders’ three denominations are the largest in the country.
Pope Francis invites Christians to pray for his upcoming Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, saying the African nations have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts. Pope Francis sets off on Tuesday as a “pilgrim of peace” to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on 31 January – 5 February.
In South Sudan, “the Church speaks with one voice for peace,” says Presbyterian leader about the upcoming trip with Pope Francis. From February 3 to 5, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Dr. Iain Greenshields, will join Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on a “pilgrimage of peace” to South Sudan. The three Christian branches have worked together for several years to promote peace in the youngest state in the world, which continues to be troubled by conflict since its independence in 2011.
Braving a volatile political and security situation, Pope Francis embarks on a long-anticipated journey of unity and reconciliation to two African countries wracked by bitter divisions, warring factions and humanitarian crises seldom on the radar of international power brokers.
The Pope will travel first to Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Jan. 31 before proceeding to South Sudan from Feb. 3-5. In the latter country, he will be joined by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, in what has been described as an ecumenical pilgrimage to facilitate a peace process that has been moving at a glacial pace following 10 years of a brutal civil war.
The language of walking and pilgrimage has been used for many years regarding the deepening of ecumenical relationships. For example, when Pope Francis received the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in June 2014, he ended his address by saying, “we must walk together.” Two years later, in the [Common] Declaration issued by the Holy Father and the Archbishop at the Church of Saint Gregory, the two leaders said that fifty years of dialogue enabled their two communions to see themselves as “partners and companions on our pilgrim journey.” Also in 2016, the bishops of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) issued an appeal entitled, Walking Together: Common Service to the World and Witness to the Gospel, declaring that “Anglicans and Roman Catholics walk together by faith, guided and strengthened by our Lord who walks the pilgrim path with us.”
Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church; Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, UK; and Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland; will travel to the world’s youngest nation on 3- 5 February on a spiritual and peace mission.
Barely a week to the visit, Juba, the capital city has been exuberant, with billboards coming up and flowers being planted. Roads are being tarmacked and churches renovated in preparation for the rare and unique visit. T-shirts with images of the leaders have also appeared, as traders in the markets increased stocks of Christian items related to the visit, including tiny crucifixes and rosaries, according to sources in the capital.