Pope Francis tells the leaders of divided South Sudan that future generations will either venerate their names or cancel their memory, based on what they do now, and he issues an appeal “to leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn.”
In his first official discourse after landing in South Sudan’s capital city, Pope Francis issued an appeal for peace and reminded those in power that their purpose is to serve the community.
Addressing the nation’s Authorities, Civil Society and Diplomatic Corps at the Presidential Palace of Juba on Friday afternoon, shortly after his arrival in the ravaged East African nation, the Pope reminded them he has come “as a pilgrim of reconciliation, in the hope of accompanying you on your journey of peace.”
Pilgrim of reconciliation and peace
He noted that his is an ecumenical pilgrimage undertaken in the company of two brothers: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
“Together, stretching out our hands, we present ourselves to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”
“We undertook this ecumenical pilgrimage of peace after hearing the plea of an entire people that, with great dignity, weeps for the violence it endures, its persistent lack of security, its poverty and the natural disasters that it has experienced,” he said.
The Pope decried the fact that the “years of war and conflict seem never to end,” and noted that “even yesterday” lives were lost in bitter clashes.
“At the same time, the process of reconciliation seems stagnant and the promise of peace unfulfilled.”
He expressed his hope that the protracted suffering of the people is not in vain, that their patience and sacrifices challenge everyone and “allow peace to blossom and bear fruit.”
Appeal to leaders
Pope Francis then directed a direct call to South Sudan’s belligerent political leaders, saying that they, “the fathers and mothers of this young country,” are called to “renew the life of society as pure sources of prosperity and peace, so greatly needed for the sons and daughters of South Sudan.”
“They need fathers, not overlords; they need steady steps towards development, not constant collapses.”
“May the time that followed the birth of the country, its painful childhood, lead to a peaceful maturity,” he said.
The Holy Father reminded the leaders “that those “sons and daughters,” and history itself, will remember you if you work for the benefit of this people that you have been called to serve.”
“Future generations will either venerate your names or cancel their memory, based on what you now do.”
No more of this!
Developing his powerful appeal, Pope Francis directly addressed the President and Vice-President with the words: “In the name of God, in whom so many people of this beloved country believe, now is the time to say “No more of this.”
“No more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence and mutual recriminations about who is responsible for it, no more leaving your people athirst for peace. No more destruction: it is time to build! Leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn!”
The purpose of power
The Pope invited them to see themselves as truly “public,” “of the people.” Those who are entrusted with the responsibility of presiding over and governing the state, he explained, “have the duty to place themselves at the service of the common good.”
“That is the purpose of power: to serve the community.”
He remarked on the temptation to use power for one’s own advantage, and warned against restricting the abundant resources of the land to a few.
Those resources, he said, should be “recognized as the legacy of all, and plans for economic recovery should coincide with proposals for an equitable distribution of wealth.”
Pope Francis recalled that at the basis of democracy is the respect for human rights, upheld by law and the application of law, particularly the right to the freedom of self-expression, and said, “there is no justice without freedom.”
He expressed the hope that the Republic’s path to peace will “not be bogged down by inertia,” and said, “It is time to move from words to deeds. It is time to turn the page: it is the time for commitment to an urgent and much-needed transformation.”
“The process of peace and reconciliation requires a new start. May an understanding be reached and progress be made in moving forward with the Peace Accord and the Road Map!”
The Holy Father noted that “In a world scarred by divisions and conflict,” the fact that the country is hosting an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace is something rare.”
“It represents a change of direction,” he said, “an opportunity for South Sudan to resume sailing in calm waters, taking up dialogue, without duplicity and opportunism.”
“May it be for everyone an occasion to revive hope. Let each citizen understand that the time has come to stop being carried along by the tainted waters of hatred, tribalism, regionalism and ethnic differences. It is time to sail together towards the future!”
Dialogue and encounter
Calling on those present to undertake a path of respect, dialogue and encounter, the Pope said that “Behind every form of violence, there is anger and resentment, and behind every form of anger and resentment, there is the unhealed memory of wounds, humiliations and wrongs.”
Thus, “the only way to break free of these is through encounter: by accepting others as our brothers and sisters and making room for them, even if it means taking a step backwards.”
The role of young people and women
He said this attitude is essential for any peace process and for the cohesive development of society and noted that young people have a key role to play in the “passage from the barbarity of confrontation to a culture of vital encounter.”
Women also have a fundamental role, the Pope noted, and “need to be increasingly involved in political life and decision-making processes.”
In his untiring appeal for good governance, Pope Francis did not neglect to mention the need to care for creation “for the sake of future generations.”
“I think, in particular, of the need to combat the deforestation caused by profiteering.”
Corruption, poverty, displacement
And he called for action against corruption, noting “The inequitable distribution of funds, secret schemes to get rich, patronage deals, lack of transparency.”
“Before all else, there is a need to combat poverty, which serves as the fertile soil in which hatred, divisions and violence take root,” he said.
And reiterating the fact that “the pressing need of any civilized country is to care for its citizens, especially the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged, he said he thinks especially “of the millions of displaced persons who live here:
“How many people have had to flee their homes, and now find themselves consigned to the margins of life as a result of conflicts and forced displacement!”
The arms trade
The Pope’s all-embracing vision on the problems and needs of the country even touched on the need “to control the flow of weapons that, despite bans, continue to arrive in many countries in the area, including South Sudan.”
“Many things are needed here, but surely not more instruments of death!”
He called for the development of suitable healthcare policies, the need for vital infrastructures and the promotion of literacy and education: “the only way that the children of this land will be able to take their future into their own hands.”
“Like all the children of this continent and of the world, they have the right to grow up holding in their hands notebooks and toys, not weapons and tools for labour.”
Pope Francis wound down his speech shining the light on the fostering of positive relationships with other countries, and acknowledging “the precious contribution made by the international community to this country, (…) and expressing gratitude for the efforts made to promote reconciliation and development.”
“I realize that some of what I have had to say may appear blunt and direct,” he concluded, assuring those present that together with his brothers with whom he has undertaken this pilgrimage of peace, he offers “heartfelt prayers and support, so that South Sudan can experience reconciliation and a change of direction.”
“May its vital course no longer be overwhelmed by the flood of violence, mired in the swamps of corruption and blocked by the inundation of poverty. May the Lord of heaven, who loves this land, grant it a new season of peace and prosperity.”
The 18th plenary meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council will take place in Accra, Ghana, from 12 to 19 February. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is one of four “Instruments of Communion or “Instruments of Unity” of the global Anglican Communion of 42 autonomous and interdependent-yet-interdependent Churches present in more than 165 countries. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, is President of the ACC and will join other members of the ACC in Accra for this month’s meeting.
While in Ghana, members of the ACC will visit the Cape Coast Castle, a former staging post for slaves being transported from West Africa to the Americas. An act of reconciliation will take place during a service in the neighbouring Christ Church Cathedral.
The meeting is grounded in prayer, worship and Bible study, with a daily pattern of Morning Prayer, Bible study, Eucharist, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer.
An opening service will take place on Sunday 12 February, at the Church of Christ in Legon, Accra, attended by the President of Ghana, Mr Nana Akufo-Addo. The Chair of the ACC, Archbishop Paul Kwong, will preside at this service, and the preacher will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Justin Welby.
The closing service wil take place at St George’s Garrison Anglican Church in Ghana. Archbishop Justin Welby will preside and Archbishop Paul Kwong will preach – his final act as Chair of the ACC.
Archbishop Paul Kwong will step down as Chair of the ACC at the conclusion of this meeting, as will the Vice Chair, Canon Maggie Swinson, and five other members of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee. Elections for a new Chair and Vice Chair, and replacement Standing Committee members, will take place during the plenary meeting.
Some 110 members from 39 of the Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces will be present in Accra for ACC-18; as well as five ecumenical guests. Three provinces: the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda, and the Church of the Province of Uganda have not nominated members to represent them at the ACC, in line with their policy of not participating in meetings of the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion over continuing disagreements with parts of the Communion, especially in the area of sexual ethics.
ACC members will be asked to consider a proposal from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) for a new piece of work exploring issues of structure and decision-making in the Anglican Communion, “as central to our call to be one”.
A paper from IASCUFO to the ACC says that “the Anglican Communion has faced several structural challenges in the last few decades, which we have yet to address consistently and coherently. Inter-Anglican ‘impairment’ first appeared with respect to the ordination of women, which the Communion sought to address in an orderly and respectful way, both at the Lambeth Conference and in a subsequent commission that coined the phrase ‘highest degree of communion possible.’ In a few cases, provincial churches have sought to accommodate varying views by developing structures of differentiation, which have been understood as ecclesiological experiments.
“Disagreements about same-sex relationships and their place in the Church have proven to be more protracted, and they remain unresolved. While the teaching of Lambeth Conference 1998 [resolution] 1.10 serves for most Anglicans as an important and even authoritative touchstone, many others would wish to see it updated or dropped altogether. Amid continuing doctrinal, theological, and exegetical disagreement, as well as widening division, several churches have declined to attend the meetings of the Lambeth Conference in both 2008 and 2022 and have absented themselves from the other Instruments of Communion. Meanwhile, other provinces have changed their teaching and practice to accommodate same-sex marriage.”
The paper explains how “a range of improvisational differentiation” has “developed in a series of ad hoc decisions and strategies” and says that “as a group asked to wrestle with precisely these questions, IASCUFO believes that the Anglican Communion should try to say again what it believes and to seek a faithful, visible expression for life together in the Church.”
Its proposal is for a looking at “good differentiation”. This, IASCUFO says, “would not seek to presume the inevitability of such differentiation, nor enshrine it for the long term, nor take sides in our painful divides. Rather, the task would be to recognise the reality and depth of our divisions and attempt to describe them in as theologically responsible a manner as possible.
“This will require a doctrine of the Church founded in the Christ-formed unity of ‘one body through the cross’ that may make sense of the hard work of reconciliation to which we are called, not only among Anglicans but with all Christians). So far from seeking to complete or heal our Communion, our interest will be to view the Anglican vocation through a broadly ecumenical lens.”
ACC members will be asked to “affirm the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate disagreement patiently and respectfully.”
There will be an opportunity to hear from a task force, chaired by Archbishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, looking at how to strengthen the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee so that it better supports the Instruments of Communion. The Working Group was appointed by Primates and the work has been carried forward by the Standing Committee.
ACC-18 will also provide space for the 13 authorised Networks and six Commissions of the Anglican Communion to share updates on their work, focusing on the Anglican Communion’s five Marks of Mission. These Marks of Mission were first adopted (as four Marks of Mission) by the ACC nearly 40 years ago, in July 1984, at ACC-6 in Badagry, Nigeria.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, will attend his first meeting of the ACC since taking up his new role in September last year. He said today: “My hope and prayer is that as we consult on how the five Marks of Mission are implemented in various provinces and contexts, we will learn from each other, find encouragement and also challenge each other to do more. We hope that as a result of this gathering, we will revitalise the five Marks of Mission.”
The full programme for ACC-18 will be published soon on a dedicated microsite – www.acc18.org – along with the supporting papers and reports. The summary programme includes:
Day 1: Sunday 12 February
The first Mark of Mission: Tell
Day 2: Monday 13 February:
The second Mark of Mission: Teach
Day 3: Tuesday 14 February
The third Mark of Mission: Tend
Day 4: Wednesday 15 February
Day 5: Thursday 16 February
The fourth Mark of Mission: Transform
Day 6: Friday 16 February
The fifth Mark of Mission: Treasure
Day 7: Saturday 17 February
Day 8: Sunday 18 February
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.
After reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 29, Pope Francis spoke about the trip.
Congo and South Sudan, he said, “situated in the center of the great African continent, have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts.”
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the east of the country, suffers from armed clashes and exploitation,” particularly because of the minerals found there, he said. “South Sudan, wracked by years of war, longs for an end to the constant violence that forces many people to be displaced and to live in conditions of great hardship.”
Talking about traveling with Archbishop Welby and Rev. Greenshields, the pope said that “together, as brothers, we will make an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, to entreat God and men to bring an end to the hostilities and for reconciliation.”
“I ask everyone, please, to accompany this journey with their prayers,” the pope said.
The Presbyterian leader used Twitter, asking “Please keep the people of #SouthSudan in your prayers. Myself @Pontifex & @JustinWelby are making this pilgrimage of peace as servants to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan and amplify their cries as they continue to suffer from conflict, flooding and famine.”
Leaders of the South Sudanese Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian communities traveled to the Vatican and to England in late 2016 to invite the three leaders to visit, hoping such a trip would convince the heads of opposing militias and political parties to work together for peace.
In a statement released Jan. 29, Archbishop Welby said, “We have prayed for many years for this visit — and we now look forward to being in Juba together in only a few days’ time.”
The church leaders, he said, will go “as servants — to listen to and amplify the cries of the South Sudanese people, who have suffered so much and continue to suffer because of conflict, devastating flooding, widespread famine and much more.”
“Over the past three years and even since July, violence has intensified in many parts of the country,” he said. The church leaders “hope to review and renew the commitments made by South Sudanese leadership” when the Vatican hosted a spiritual retreat for them at the Vatican in 2019.
“This will be a historic visit,” the archbishop wrote. “After centuries of division, leaders of three different parts of the church are coming together in an unprecedented way, and in so doing are seeking to be part of answering another prayer — Jesus’ prayer — that his followers might be one.”
The archbishop’s office also released a statement from his wife, Caroline Welby, who has made repeated trips to South Sudan particularly to support the country’s women.
“They have borne the grief of war and carry the responsibility to provide for their families,” she said. “Many of them live with the trauma of displacement in their own country, refugees in other countries, sexual violence and the daily fear of mistreatment in their own homes and communities.”
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.
Ahead of his 40th Apostolic Journey abroad, the Pope read out a message to the people of the two African nations during his Sunday Angelus address.
He thanked the civil authorities and Bishops of both countries for their invitations and the preparations they have made for his visit.
‘Close to my heart’
The Pope also offered a heartfelt greeting to “those beloved peoples who await me.”
“These lands have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts.”
Pope Francis noted that the DRC “suffers from armed clashes and exploitation,” especially in the east of the country.
South Sudan, he said, has been “wracked by years of war” and “longs for an end to the constant violence that forces many people to be displaced and to live in conditions of great hardship.”
Ecumenical pilgrimage of peace
In his message, the Pope recalled that he will arrive in South Sudan accompanied by Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby and Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.
“In South Sudan, I will arrive together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Together, as brothers, we will make an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.”
Pope Francis wrapped up his message with an appeal for everyone to accompany his Apostolic Journey with their prayers.
Brief overview of visit
The first leg of this papal visit will take the Pope to the Democratic Republic of Congo from 31 January to 3 February.
He will remain in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, where he will meet with civil authorities, victims of conflict in the east, and the Church’s local ministers.
Then, on Friday, he travels to South Sudan until 5 February for a visit which seeks to bind up the wounds of the world’s youngest nation.
Pope Francis will stay in the capital, Juba, holding meetings with various Church and civil groups, including several internally displaced people (IDPs).
He will return to Rome on Sunday following a public Mass for the faithful of South Sudan.
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.
In an interview with I.MEDIA, Dr Greenshields shared his hopes and expectations for this ecumenical trip and highlighted the role of the Presbyterian Church in South Sudan.
“We want to show that we should be one, that the Church speaks with one voice for peace, love, forgiveness, reconciliation,” Dr. Greenshields said, who is preparing himself for this unprecedented trip. “This strong Christian message, for a country with a large Christian population, will be reinforced as it will be said by three different people.”
South Sudan lived through decades of violent conflicts from the 1950s until the early 2000s, which culminated in its independence from Sudan in 2011. The young nation then erupted into another civil war, which led to over 400,000 deaths and 4 million displaced. Despite a peace agreement signed in 2018, the security, economic and social situation remains fragile.
An ecumenical pilgrimage to promote peace had been envisioned as early as 2017 but had to be postponed due to the deteriorating safety situation in the country. In 2019 the three communities intensified their efforts for peace when they hosted a spiritual retreat at the Vatican for the contending South Sudanese leaders. During this visit, Pope Francis knelt down in front of the President, Salva Kiir, and Vice President, Riek Machar, as a gesture of plea for peace.
“We want people to hear that there is a pathway that they can take towards forgiveness, Christian love, reconciliation, and peace with one another so that the violence that continues will stop,” Dr. Greenshields explained.
He hopes that this trip will also raise awareness of the situation of extreme poverty in which the country finds itself and highlight that the vast natural resources the country has can greatly benefit the population.
For Dr. Greenshields, this “quite unique” trip in the history of the Church consolidates all the initiatives that have been put in place in recent years to promote peace. The Moderator also emphasized the “holistic approach” of this peace delegation, which is visiting a country where more than 60% of the population is Christian.
The Presbyterian Church’s role in South Sudan
The Church of Scotland, which counts around 300,000 members worldwide, first established a connection with Sudan in the mid-1990s. Those relations then intensified in the last 10 years through educational initiatives, humanitarian aid to displaced people, and visits from Scottish representatives. The Moderator highlighted that the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan sees the Church of Scotland “almost as its mother Church.”
In 2015 the Moderator at the time, Dr. John Chalmers, organized workshops with the South Sudanese Presbyterian and Anglican leaders focused on developing skills for mediation, trauma healing and reconciliation between community members. These then led to further workshops in 2016 and 2017 and to the participants being able to visit Scotland in 2018.
“With the workshops, we hoped that the people would be able to find a way of healing much of the hurt that has existed for decades. I think our role is one of encouragement, of facilitating, and of doing anything that we can on the ground to help,” Dr. Greenshields explained.
The Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA), a partner of the Church of Scotland, is also very influential in South Sudan. It sent its first missionaries to Sudan in the 1900s and helped develop the Presbyterian Church in Sudan, which later concentrated in South Sudan when the new nation was established.
In fact, the PCUSA will also be represented in the ecumenical trip by the co-moderator of the General Assembly, Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, and Dr. Dianna Wright, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations. The PCUSA has around one million members worldwide.
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 Democratic Republic of Congo, with a population that is 50 percent Catholic, will welcome the Pope for the second time. It will be his first visit to South Sudan, which gained its independence in 2011.
Those working on the ground in the African nations are hopeful the visit will spur peace.
“The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have high hopes from the visit of the Holy Father,” Maria Lozano, Aid to the Church in Need’s international director of press and information, said at an online conference she hosted on the Pope’s visit.
“When the Pope touches the ground of South Sudan, we hope miracles will happen,” Fr. Samuel Abe, general coordinator of the papal visit to South Sudan, one of the two speakers at the conference told the international audience.
Fr. Godefroid Mombula Alekiabo, academic secretary of St. Augustine University in Kinshasa, said the Catholic Church is a major presence in his country, and that “one can’t overestimate its influence on the population.”
“The Pope will bring the message of Fratelli Tutti (human fraternity and world peace) to the Congo,” he said.
Both countries on the Pope’s travel itinerary are tinderboxes of self-destructive civil wars (often exacerbated by foreign — including Canadian — interference), while the consequent humanitarian crises, worsened by flooding and other natural disasters, remain largely hidden from the world.
In the DRC the situation remains volatile with hundreds of thousands of displaced people needing urgent support. In South Sudan, the power struggle between two leaders, President Salva Kir and his rival VP Riek Machar, has resulted in 2.2 million people being internally displaced and 2.3 million refugees fleeing the county. Four consecutive years of flooding have added to the misery. A flawed peace agreement which has yet to be implemented, has not improved the situation.
But the Pope’s visit will offer an unprecedented opportunity that could lead to positive change, said Jenny Cafiso, executive director of the Toronto-based Canadian Jesuits International.
“The wars afflicting these countries are largely unknown, yet millions of people are dying in both countries due to poverty and violence,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The Congolese and South Sudanese are looking to be heard and they are looking for peace. The Pope’s visit will bring these countries and their issues to the world stage. It is an opportunity to be seized, and hopefully it will spur peace and reconciliation.”
She pointed out that over 80 international journalists will be travelling with the Pope.
Cafiso added that CJI’s partners in DRC are pleading with the international community (including Canada) to acknowledge the role of international corporate interests in the wars that plague them, and to help end them. She explained the role played by companies, particularly mining companies (30 percent of which are Canadian) in fuelling conflict.
“The war in DRC is strictly linked to the extraction of minerals, and this is linked to the exploitation of labour including child labour and human rights abuses, and the illegal trade of arms,” she said.
“Our greatest contribution as Canadians is to support the Pope’s mission of peace and reconciliation, and to ensure that the Canadian government enacts legislation that requires Canadian companies to respect human and environmental rights throughout their supply chains.”
She added that this means encouraging Members of Parliament to support Bills C-262 and C-263, which if passed will hold companies to account for human rights violations and environmental destruction resulting from their activities abroad.
Cafiso said Jesuit Refugee Service, partners of Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) in both DRC and South Sudan, are heavily involved in the preparation and hosting of the Pope’s visit. In the DRC the Pope will spend a full day with refugees, displaced people and other victims of the conflict in the country.
In South Sudan, he is expected to travel to Maban, which has the largest concentration of refugees and internally displaced people in the country.
“It’s very clear that he wants to listen to people on the margins. This is very significant for the people there,” Cafiso said. “They expect the visit to have a great impact on their country and the Church.”
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.” In November 2017, when welcoming a delegation from the World Methodist Council to mark fifty years of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission (MERCIC), the Holy Father described Methodists and Catholics as “brothers and sisters on a shared journey.” He concluded with the exhortation: “So let us advance together, knowing that our journey is blessed by the Lord. It began from him, and it leads to him.”
The concept of walking together, clearly integral to these and many other ecumenical relationships, has entered more widely into the day-to-day language of the Catholic Church since the launch of the Synod. The more technical term, synodality, long heard only in theological texts and classrooms, has become a watchword in parishes and dioceses throughout the world, while the Church engages in what the Holy Father described as “a process of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, that unfolds in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God.”
The mandate given to the third Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) by Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams was to examine “the Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching.” Mindful of the significance of episcopal conferences in the Catholic Church and provincial Synods in the Anglican Communion, ARCIC added consideration of the regional level to its work. It is noteworthy that the current synodal process in the Catholic Church also has regional phases, both national and continental, between the local and universal phases. ARCIC III’s first report, issued in 2017, was entitled, Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be the Church – Local, Regional, Universal. This report dealt primarily with the first, ecclesiological, half of ARCIC III’s mandate.
The commission met for the first time after the Covid-19 pandemic in Rome from 7 to 14 May 2022, continuing to work on the second half of the mandate, examining how the Church local, regional and universal discerns right ethical teaching. A number of ARCIC III’s Catholic members and consultants also serve on the Theological Commission of the Synod. Seeing significant intersections between its work and the synodal process, the ARCIC steering committee invited Cardinal Mario Grech and Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, Synod General Secretary and Under-Secretary, to join the commission for an evening of dialogue and discussion.
On 13 May 2022, the members of the commission were received by the Holy Father. Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham (England), the Catholic co-chair, and Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the acting Anglican co-chair, addressed the Pope, explaining how the commission was using the method of ‘Receptive Ecumenism’ in its work. In light of the recent centenary of the beginning of the ‘Malines Conversations’ and the publication of Sorores in Spe, a document of the unofficial Malines Conversations Group, Archbishop Nicholls raised the question of Anglican orders. She noted that the non-recognition of Anglican orders by the Catholic Church continued to be a wound for many Anglicans and concluded, “we have always considered that our liturgical and sacramental life and traditions demonstrate our place within the Church catholic, and it is our earnest hope that this would be recognised by you, our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Responding to the addresses of the two co-chairs, Pope Francis noted both the subject of ARCIC’s current work on ecclesiological and ethical questions and its method, suggesting that it “requires, as its basic conditions, humility and truth … We must begin, then, by admitting and sharing the struggles we experience. This is the first step: not to be concerned with appearing attractive and secure to our brothers and sisters, presenting ourselves the way we would like to be, but with showing them with an open heart how we are in reality, including our limitations.” Echoing once again the synodal nature of ecumenical engagement, Pope Francis said that Catholics and Anglicans are called to walk together, “moving forward, leaving behind the things that divide, past and present, and keeping our gaze fixed on Jesus and the goal that he desires and points out to us: the goal of visible unity between us.”
Turning to a different kind of ecumenical journey, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of the joint visit to South Sudan, which he was due to make with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in July 2022. The visit had to be postponed but has now been rescheduled for 3 to 5 February next. South Sudan is a land where different denominations evangelized different communities, and many of those communities have been in conflict with each other in recent decades. Catholic, Anglican and Reformed church leaders have played an important role in bringing a degree of peace and stability to the country and are looking to the forthcoming visit to strengthen reconciliation and cooperation in their land. Asking for the prayers of the commission, the Holy Father said: “Ours will be an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace. Let us pray that it may inspire Christians in South Sudan and everywhere to be promotors of reconciliation, patient weavers of concord, capable of saying no to the perverse and useless spiral of violence and of arms.”
The term ‘walking together’ has particular resonance for the worldwide Anglican Communion at this time too. The fifteenth Lambeth Conference took place in Canterbury during the summer of 2022, with the theme, God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together. Lambeth Conferences, which take place at roughly ten-year intervals, aim to gather all the Anglican bishops in the world for prayer, fellowship and study. However, the Communion is currently marked by very deep disagreement, principally over human sexuality.
A delegation of Catholic bishops appointed by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity was invited to attend the Lambeth Conference and saw at firsthand the depth of the divisions on the issue within the Communion. A significant number of bishops were not willing to ‘walk together’ with some of the others and stayed away from the event altogether. Those absent included the entire episcopates of three large African member churches. Of those who did attend, some, including the Primates of some member churches, declined to receive Holy Communion at the opening and closing services in Canterbury Cathedral because of the presence of bishops from provinces who had moved to greater acceptance and recognition of same-sex relationships.
Contrary to some people’s fears, there was no explicit schism during the Conference, but the leader of the group known as the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches made it clear after the conference that they remain divided. “Our willingness as orthodox bishops to attend this conference does not mean that we have agreed to ‘walk together’ with the revisionist Primates and bishops in the Anglican Communion.” As Catholics and Anglicans continue to seek ever closer communion on the way to the Father, Catholics would do well to pray for their Anglican brothers and sisters as they seek to address the issues that threaten their own unity as Anglicans.
The Catholic Church’s dialogue with the World Methodist Council has been running continuously since 1967. The report of the eleventh round of the MERCIC dialogue was published in 2022. Here too, the theme of journey is prominent – God in Christ Reconciling: On the way to Full Communion in Faith, Sacraments and Mission. The subtitle, with its reference to the journey towards full communion, reflects the missionary imperative to be fully reconciled so that the churches’ witness may become a more effective sign, instrument and foretaste of the reconciliation that God wills for humanity and all creation. The document was launched on 7 October in the first of a new series of Tillard Chair lectures at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
The launch of the report coincided with the first meeting of the twelfth round of the MERCIC dialogue, which took place in Rome from 2 to 8 October 2022. The commission developed a schema for its future work, which will seek to chart a pathway towards unity through a missiological lens, taking account of the theological convergence that the dialogue has already achieved. Once again, the Catholic Church’s synodal process was considered very relevant, and the commission availed of the opportunity of an informal meeting with Cardinal Mario Grech and Sr Nathalie Becquart, who explained the progress of the Catholic synodal process and how ecumenical and inter-religious voices constitute an important part of the Church’s listening to the Holy Spirit.
On 5 October, the members of the commission were received by the Holy Father. The Catholic co-chair, Bishop Shane Mackinlay of Sandhurst (Australia), told Pope Francis that “we are committed to continuing to help our respective churches to listen to one another, and to receive from the graces with which the Holy Spirit has blessed the other – graces that are ‘also meant to be a gift for us,’ as you point out in Evangelii Gaudium.” The Methodist co-chair, Revd Prof. Edgardo Colón-Emeric, presented the first copy of MERCIC 11’s report to the Holy Father. Recalling the last time that Pope Francis received the commission, in 2017, when the Holy Father had stressed the importance of praying together, Prof. Colón-Emeric said: “I wanted you to know that before that audience, the members of the commission had the opportunity of visiting the Scavi beneath Saint Peter’s Basilica. Before the tomb of Saint Peter, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and a miracle happened. We felt that the weight of centuries of separation was lightened. We felt that we were not simply Methodists and Catholics. We were Christians. In the tomb lay our Peter. We prayed to Our Father. We asked forgiveness for our sins. Your Holiness, God gives us signs of full communion along the way. May this text and the work of this committee be a seed of unity, not uniformity, that the world may believe in Christ, our peace.”
To grow in love and communion with fellow Christians from whom we are separated is itself a synodal process. As the Catholic Church seeks to become more truly synodal, we can hope that it will also be a more credible dialogue partner for our Anglican and Methodist sisters and brothers. In the ‘exchange of gifts’ that characterises ecumenical dialogue, our Methodist and Anglican friends, in their turn, can share with the Catholic Church their experiences of synodality.
The Reverend Fr Martin Browne OSB is the official for Methodist and Anglican relations at the Vatican’s ecumenical department (Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity).
Hope, excitement, and expectations are rising in South Sudan ahead of the ecumenical pilgrimage of peace by the Pope and world Protestant leaders.
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.
“The people are aware of the visit and are very excited. They were disappointed following its cancellation in July, but they are now happy and ready,” said Rt. Rev. Thomas Tut Puot Mut, moderator of the Presbyterian Evangelical Church. “It is a privilege as South Sudanese church to have these leaders coming.”
Bishop Arkajelo Wani Lemi, a former chairman of the South Sudan Council of Churches, highlighted the country’s eagerness to welcome the leaders.
“There is great expectation what the visit will bring forth,” said the leader from the Africa Inland Church, while pointing at the growing casual talk on streets, for example, that the Pope was second to Jesus and the leaders will heal the sick.
On arrival, the leaders will meet president Salva Kiir Mayardit and other government officials, members of civil society, and the diplomatic corps. On the second day, the global leaders will meet bishops, priests, and other leaders of their denominations separately, and later hear stories from internally displaced persons. In the afternoon, the three will preside over a joint prayer rally at the mausoleum of the late John Garang’, the founding father of the nation. On the final day, the pope will in the morning hold a mass at the mausoleum before departing for Rome.
Mut said, while the leaders will pray for love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity, the main prayers will be about peace.
“We know that there are others who pray with us, but this time, global leaders are coming to be together and spend time with believers. We feel that we are not alone and the body of Christ is concerned with our plight,” he said.
Rev. Joseph Alhag Lo Abel, an Anglican priest in the capital, said the church and church leaders were very optimistic about the outcome of the visit because the world leaders had come to meet South Sudan people in their country.
“When people see the leaders coming, they become hopeful that their country can come out of the situation of war. A solution cannot be found without an initiative,” said the priest, while expressing hope the visit will renew the stalled peace talks between the faction leaders that the Vatican had started.
South Sudan became independent in 2011, but a deadly war broke out barely two years after. By the time a 2018 peace deal ended the countrywide fighting, an estimated 400,000 people lay dead and millions displaced. At the moment, the country is struggling with inter-ethnic armed clashes which agencies link to competition for resources.
Pope Benedict XVI is rightly remembered not only as a gentle pastor but as a dedicated upholder of Catholic teaching. He was also committed to the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian Churches, including the Church of England and the Churches of the Anglican Communion. When he visited Lambeth Palace in 2010 as part of his State Visit to the United Kingdom, he told a gathering of Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops, “I wish to join you in giving thanks for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue during the forty years that have elapsed since the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) began its work. Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth”.
He thrived on opportunities to engage in conversation with other great theological thinkers. Among them was former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. They acknowledged together in a joint statement the work of the International Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission for Unity and Mission, IARCCUM, of which we are privileged to be the current Co-Chairman: “our fellowship in the service of Christ, promoted by IARCCUM and experienced by many of our communities around the world, adds a further impetus to our relationship”.
On behalf of IARCCUM, we wish not only to remember the late Pope as a man of deep faith and spirituality, but with gratitude for his constant reminder of our ecumenical responsibility to press forward in our dialogue and relations. As he once said, “There is too much at stake to turn back”.
May Benedict now be welcomed into the joys of Christ’s kingdom and in the company of all the saints into life everlasting.
Archbishop of Regina
Suffragan Bishop in Europe
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, has issued a statement following the death of Benedict XVI, expressing his “great sadness” and assuring brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church of his prayers.
Bishop Anthony Poggo is currently returning to the UK from Tanzania after preaching the Christmas Day sermon Christ Church Cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Speaking at the airport, he said:
“It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
With all the member churches of the Anglican Communion I would like to assure His Holiness Pope Francis, and all our sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church of our prayers, thanking God for Pope Benedict’s outstanding ministry of service to the Church and the world.
“He was an inspiring and courageous teacher, preacher and pastor. His theological wisdom has been of immense benefit not only to Catholics, but to countless faithful in other Christian traditions.
“Anglicans are deeply grateful for the wisdom we have received from Pope Emeritus Benedict, and pray as he did that in Christ we shall all be one, and that together we will share in the fullness of the Resurrection.
“May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
The Anglican Communion is a family of 42 autonomous independent-yet-interdependent Churches in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, President of the Anglican Consultative Council, Convenor of the Lambeth Conference and Chair of the Primates’ Meetings, has issued his own statement.
Archbishop Justin said: “Today I join with the church throughout the world, and especially with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and all in the Catholic Church, in mourning the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“In Pope Benedict’s long life and ministry of service to Christ in His Church he saw many profound changes in the church and in the world. He lived through the Nazi regime in Germany and served briefly in the Second World War. As a younger theologian and priest he witnessed first-hand the discussions of the Second Vatican Council. As a professor and then as an Archbishop he lived in a divided Germany but saw too the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of his homeland.
“Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age – committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence. In all things, not least in his writing and his preaching, he looked to Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. It was abundantly clear that Christ was the root of his thought and the basis of his prayer.
“In 2013 Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us all. In his retirement in Rome he has led a life of prayer and now he has gone to the eternal rest granted by the Father. In his life and ministry Pope Benedict strove to direct people to Christ. May he now rest in Christ’s peace, and rise in glory with all the Saints.”
In Pope Benedict’s long life and ministry of service to Christ in His Church he saw many profound changes in the church and in the world. He lived through the Nazi regime in Germany and served briefly in the Second World War. As a younger theologian and priest he witnessed first-hand the discussions of the Second Vatican Council. As a professor and then as an Archbishop he lived in a divided Germany but saw too the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of his homeland.
Pope Benedict was one of the greatest theologians of his age – committed to the faith of the Church and stalwart in its defence. In all things, not least in his writing and his preaching, he looked to Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. It was abundantly clear that Christ was the root of his thought and the basis of his prayer.
In 2013 Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us all. In his retirement in Rome he has led a life of prayer and now he has gone to the eternal rest granted by the Father. In his life and ministry Pope Benedict strove to direct people to Christ. May he now rest in Christ’s peace, and rise in glory with all the Saints.
Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will make an historic Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to South Sudan from 3rd to 5th February next year.
The long-awaited visit was due to take place in July of this year, but was postponed after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis would not be able to travel on advice from his doctors. The visit was promised during a spiritual retreat held at the Vatican in 2019, in which South Sudanese political leaders committed to working together for the good of their people.
The three spiritual leaders have often spoken of their hopes to visit South Sudan – to stand in solidarity with its people as they face the challenges of devastating flooding, widespread famine and continued violence. Pope Francis has said: “I think 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.”
The visit is an unprecedented ecumenical partnership between Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby and the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields. This shared pilgrimage, witnessing to their unity in Christ, the Prince of Peace, after centuries of historic division, will reflect the possibilities of peace and the promise of hope. The Moderator said: “It is a privilege to be joining the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury on this historic Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace to South Sudan; we come as servants of the Global Church, to accompany the people in South Sudan as they seek to give expression to Jesus’ words that ‘blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.’”
The central events of the three leaders’ Peace Pilgrimage will be a meeting with internally displaced persons in Juba’s Freedom Hall on Saturday 4th February, followed by an Ecumenical Prayer meeting at the John Garang Mausoleum. The people of South Sudan have been consistently in the leaders’ prayers for many years, making it a significant day as they join together with them in person. Archbishop Justin Welby has said: “After much waiting, I am very pleased that this historic visit to South Sudan with Pope Francis and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland will be taking 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. 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.” During their time in South Sudan, each of the three leaders will also have a number of other encounters with local church and civic groups.
The Christian communities of South Sudan have a legacy of powerful witness to their faith. Through working together, they have been a sign and instrument of the reconciliation God desires for their whole country and all of creation. This visit aims to build on and re-energise that legacy at a time when peace remains fragile.
The idea of the joint ecumenical visit by the three Christian leaders was proposed by His Grace, Archbishop Welby, and first announced in 2017. This visit was further discussed during the spiritual retreat for the political and religious leaders of South Sudan held in the Vatican with Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby and Very Reverend John Chalmers, then Moderator of the Church of Scotland, on 4 April 2019. Joint messages to Political leaders of South Sudan were sent at Christmas 2019 and 2020, and at Easter 2022.
A relic of St Chad is due to transferred from Birmingham to Lichfield cathedral tomorrow as a shrine of St Chad is reinstated in the location of the original medieval shrine.
St Chad, a monk and abbot, moved his see from Repton to Lichfield when he was made Bishop of Mercia in 669. He died just three years later in a plague. He became associated with healing, until his relics had to be moved during the Dissolution. They were eventually enshrined at St Chad’s new Catholic cathedral in Birmingham when it opened in 1841, in a new ark designed by Pugin.
Welcoming St Chad back to Lichfield Cathedral marks 1350 years since the death of Lichfield cathedral’s co-patron saint.
The return of the relic to Lichfield is being regarded as a gesture of unity between the Catholic Church and Church of England.
Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley said: “I am very grateful that our pilgrimage together as Anglicans and Roman Catholics has been strengthened by our common devotion to the memory of St Chad, as a share of his relic returns to Lichfield Cathedral. St Chad reminds us of the unity we already enjoy through our baptism and faith in Christ – he encourages us to pray and work for the fullness of unity together.”
The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Rev’d Adrian Dorber, said: “This moment will represent years of patient dialogue and conversation. More importantly it marks the growing relationships between all God’s people and especially with our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
“We pray that this gift of friendship will be a sign and example that heals historic divides and moves forward in shared faith. After all, Chad was bishop of an undivided church. He is perhaps a fitting patron of the unity we all seek. We know St Chad was a humble, godly man who, during his short tenure, helped to unite two warring peoples, bring hope and healing to the region, and unite it, and thus, inspired the construction of Lichfield Cathedral with his shrine at the East End. As a relic of St Chad is so generously translated back to Lichfield, a part of the cathedral’s heart is restored, and St Chad’s ministry of healing continues through the ages.”
The service tomorrow afternoon will see a relic of St Chad brought by representatives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and St Chad’s Cathedral to Lichfield Cathedral. This relic will be kept in a specially created reliquary, gifted by the congregation of St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham.
Walking the way of St Chad from the well at St Chad’s Parish Church, Lichfield by Stowe Pool, the relic will make its way to Lichfield Cathedral where it will be gratefully received and housed in a purpose-built shrine. At the front of the Lady Chapel will be the new Shrine of St Chad, an altar-shrine with a golden corona of light suspended from the ceiling.
Alongside the shrine, specially commissioned icons on the walls will depict the story of Jesus’ ministry and golden vesicas – pointed oval shaped containers often used in mediaeval religious art – will house the gospels and holy sacrament.
“Reinstating the Shrine of St Chad serves to focus our attention on the life of St Chad, a man who lived by the example of Jesus Christ and in so doing, we are pointing to the faith we hold in Jesus, the one we share with our brothers and sisters around the world. We pray that the shrine will serve to bring people’s prayers and thoughts to Jesus as they encounter the wonder of this sacred space and the holiness that feels so tangible here at the Cathedral”, said the Dean.
As a sign of reconciliation and healing two fruit trees, symbolising two divided factions of the Church, will be planted in the Cathedral grounds and the 300 churches, schools and institutions attending the service will be gifted with a special Verdun Oak sapling, grown from the Verdun Oak in the Remembrance Garden in Lichfield.
Bishop of Lichfield Michael Ipgrave, said: “This is an enormously significant event for both our cathedral and the church across the wider Midlands for whom St Chad was apostle. The installation of the new shrine and relic of St Chad will be a sign of both healing and forgiveness. St Chad was a saint of the undivided church and this celebration is a potent symbol and step towards the unity that we pray and strive for as brothers and sisters in Christ. It also sends a powerful message of hope and reconciliation to our divided world.”
The Second Vatican Council was the universal Catholic Church’s response to God’s love and to Jesus’ command to feed his sheep, Pope Francis said, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the council’s opening.
The council reminded the church of what is “essential,” the pope said: “a church madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom he loves,” one that “is rich in Jesus and poor in assets,” a church that “is free and freeing.”
Pope Francis presided over the Mass Oct. 11 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the council sessions were held in four sessions from 1962 to 1964. The date is also the feast of St. John XXIII, who convoked and opened the council; the glass urn containing his body was moved to the center of the basilica for the liturgy.
The Gospel reading at the Mass recounted Jesus asking St. Peter, “Do you love me?” and telling him, “Feed my sheep.”
In his homily, the pope said the council was the church’s response to that question and marked a renewed effort to feed God’s sheep, not just those who are Catholic, but all people.
The debates that followed the council and continue today are a distraction from the church’s mission, Pope Francis said.
“We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back the time that providence has granted us,” he said.
Catholics must be careful, he said, because “both the ‘progressivism’ that lines up behind the world and the ‘traditionalism’ that longs for a bygone world are not evidence of love, but of infidelity,” forms of “selfishness that puts our own tastes and plans above the love that pleases God, the simple, humble and faithful love that Jesus asked of Peter.”
“A church in love with Jesus has no time for quarrels, gossip and disputes,” the pope said. “May God free us from being critical and intolerant, harsh and angry. This is not a matter of style but of love.”
Jesus, the good shepherd, “wants his flock to be united under the guidance of the pastors he has given them,” the pope said, but the devil loves to sow division; “let us not give in to his enticements or to the temptation of polarization.”
“How often, in the wake of the council, did Christians prefer to choose sides in the church, not realizing that they were breaking their mother’s heart,” the heart of their mother, the church, Pope Francis said.
How often, he asked, did they prefer “to be on the ‘right’ or ‘left,’ rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as ‘guardians of the truth’ or ‘pioneers of innovation’ rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church?”
The council, he said, taught the church to see the world around it and to share God’s love with all, knowing that “if it is fitting to show a particular concern, it should be for those whom God loves most: the poor and the outcast.”
With Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant representatives present, as they were at the council, Pope Francis also prayed that “the yearning for unity” would grow within each Christ, “the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ.”
Thanking God for the gift of the council, the pope asked the Lord to “save us from the forms of polarization that are the devil’s handiwork. And we, your church, with Peter and like Peter, now say to you: ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that we love you.'”
Pope Francis, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1969, is the first pope ordained after the Second Vatican Council. His immediate predecessor, now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, attended all four sessions of the council as a theological adviser — a “peritus” — to the archbishop of Cologne, Germany. St. John Paul II participated in all four sessions as a full member of the body, first as auxiliary bishop of Krakow, Poland, and then as archbishop of the city.
Among the more than 400 priests concelebrating the Mass, the Vatican liturgical office said there were five who were present at Vatican II.
According to the websites GCatholic.org and catholic-hierarchy.org, there are six bishops alive in the world today who participated in at least one session of the Second Vatican Council. Among them is Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, an 89-year-old former Vatican official who was ordained a bishop in 1965 and attended the council’s last session; he was one of the concelebrants at the anniversary Mass.
Before the Mass, passages were read from the speech St. John XXIII gave at the council’s opening. Known by its opening words in Latin, “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia,” the speech begins: “Mother Church rejoices.”
Selections from the council’s four constitutions also were read. Pope Francis has asked Catholics to prepare for the Holy Year 2025 by re-reading and studying the documents: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”); Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”); Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (“Dei Verbum”); and Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”).
Pope Francis has appointed an Irish Benedictine to lead the Vatican’s dialogue with the Anglican Communion. The Irish Catholic reports Fr. Martin Browne OSB, a monk at Glenstal Abbey in Murroe, County Limerick, Ireland will shortly take up the post in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity. He succeeds Fr. Anthony Currer as the official for Methodist and Anglican Relations.
Fr Browne entered Glenstal Abbey in 2001 and after his novitiate taught history and religion at Glenstal Abbey School and served as a Housemaster and director of the school’s choir. After spending three years earning a higher degree, Fr. Browne returned to Glenstal Abbey as headmaster in 2009 and was appointed president of the school in 2022.
Fr. Browne’s introduction to the Anglican and Methodist world came during a two year living and studying in St John’s College, Durham, England, which incorporated the Cranmer Hall and the Methodist Wesley Study Centre.
At times of world crisis, the “habits of division” between Christians must end, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Wednesday. He was addressing the 11th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly, meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany (Comment, 2 September).
Archbishop Welby spoke of the Lambeth Conference meeting in Canterbury over the summer (News, 19 August), at which participants had expressed “huge differences” over matters such as human sexuality. “We found our way forward through, not by solving the issues but by living in the light of Christ, by saying we do not agree, by being honest without excluding one another.”
He continued: “And in this time of world crisis, we found a way forward: not in panicking in what is happening around us, but in studying the scriptures, in prayer, and even, by the end of the conference, by sharing communion far more than we were the eucharist at the beginning. At the beginning, many felt they could not participate; by the end, almost all did.”
The Archbishop went on to say that, in a time of crisis, Christians of different denominations were called “to be a community of peace, the creation of God, not us, in Christ through the Spirit”, and to be “a people of generosity and harmony across difference”.
The crises facing the world were “greater today than perhaps ever before in human history”, he said. This meant that “the time of ecumenical winter and the habits of division, of living separately, is past. New life will come with obedience, and the choice of us taking risks in ecumenism, that step forward expecting to be blessed when we obey Christ.”
Archbishop Welby said that the challenge facing the Church worldwide was “to re-find the spiritual passion of the past for ecumenism; theologically, in solidarity with the suffering, in love that covers a multitude of sins. To do that, we must face our fears of each other and of the world together; we must love one another, we must give common witness and work towards a more visible unity that we reimagine in the grace of God.”
Speaking at a press conference after his speech, Archbishop Welby warned against denominations’ competing against one another. “Unity does not mean a united bureaucracy, or even a united hierarchy, or style of worship or common cultural assumptions. It means a profound love for one another that receives each other at the Lord’s table.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addressed the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly on 7 September.
The archbishop spoke of how the theme of the WCC assembly—“Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”—resonates with the theme of the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops, held in August under the theme “God’s Church for God’s World.”
Welby commented on the ways in which the participants at the Lambeth Conference were able to move forward. “We found our way forward through, not by solving the issues, but by living in the light of Christ, by saying we do not agree, by being honest without excluding one another,” he said. “At the beginning many felt they could not participate—by the end almost all did.”
The challenge to Christians, Welby said, is in daily conversion of life. “The next decades look no better, economically, militarily, spiritually, socially, scientifically, technologically, especially for the poorest and the weakest,” he said. “In this time of world crisis, Christians are to be a community of peace, the creation of God, not us, in Christ through the Spirit.”
We live amidst the ecumenism of suffering, Welby continued. “We are well practised in the ecumenism of service,” he said. “Theological understanding has advanced greatly.”
But none of us are yet imbued with the spirit of the love of Christ, he emphasized. “Christ’s prayer for visible unity to convert and draw us close enough to each other, although not united, we share as one people in the paschal mystery,” he said. “But we do not show that day to day.”
The luxurious expense of well-practised Christian division is no longer affordable, he concluded.
“My simple challenge to all of us today, is to re-find the spiritual passion of the past for ecumenism; theologically, in solidarity with the suffering, in love that covers a multitude of sins,” he said. “To do that we must face our fears of each other and of the world together, we must love one another, we must give common witness and work towards a more visible unity that we reimagine in the grace of God.”
Archbishop Justin today addressed the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. The WCC Assembly is the highest governing body of the World Council of Churches, and normally meets every eight years. This year’s conference took place between 31st August – 8th September 2022. It is the only time when the entire fellowship of member churches come together in one place for prayer and celebration. The theme of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches is “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”. Archbishop Justin was speaking as part of the closing plenary session and his full speech can be read below.
We are in a time of world crisis and in this time of world crisis we found ourselves meeting, at the end of July and early August at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops, which was called ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, and strangely the themes of that meeting almost exactly overlapped with the themes of this meeting. During it, we had the benefit of remarkable speeches from Ecumenical guests.
Two, I will pick out especially, one was from Dr Anne Burghardt, who with great generosity broke into her summer holiday to speak to almost 700 Anglican Bishops and 500 spouses. She spoke above all of visible and organic unity, with deep theological and emotional impact. The second was by Cardinal Tagle who spoke on the subject of the next 10 years, he is the Cardinal who leads under the Pope’s leadership on evangelisation. He emphasised the urgency of the dangers that face us, and the greatness of the task of evangelisation at every level, for only in the conversion of human beings is found the hope of new global community.
So we met, a lot of us, not all, we sadly missed some who felt they could not be there, and the themes we concentrated on were conversion of life, clarity of vision and honesty about the differences that we have between us. The conference had had three main aims, to renew our love for Christ, to define our solidarity with one another, to refresh our commitment to serving the missio dei, the mission of God, in God’s world. There was a lot more than that, of course.
The Anglican Communion reaches from the hills and mountains of Papua New Guinea to the canyons of Wall Street, the vast majority are global south, in conditions of poverty, persecution or war and that means and that hindrances to unity are no less in the Anglican Communion than in the Global Church or in this wonderful gathering which I feel so privileged to be invited to address. Of course, the public comment tended to focus only on human sexuality, what else is there to talk about when the world is in such crisis but we spent one hour in plenary over 11 days on that subject, the rest of the subjects were those that are in this world of crisis.
In that time of talking about human sexuality and the work behind the scenes we had huge differences cultural and theological, scriptural, scientific. We found our way forward through, not by solving the issues but by living in the light of Christ, by saying we do not agree, by being honest without excluding one another.
Our experience amidst our differences could have been summed up in the opening remarks of this WCC by the Moderator, Dr Agnes Abuom that very remarkable opening speech she said “Absolutely fundamental to the WCC and the ecumenical movement are relationships. That’s what makes experiences like the assembly so precious and formative. We encounter one another – in all our uniqueness – and recognise a neighbour in the stranger, unity in the midst of our diversity.”
And in this time of world crisis we found a way forward, not in panicking in what is happening around us but in studying the scriptures, in prayer and even by the end of the conference by sharing Communion far more than we were the eucharist at the beginning. At the beginning many felt they could not participate, by the end almost all did.
The theme of the conference was the first letter of Peter. We began to love one another fervently from the heart (1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter is the Conference text). Being together as part of God’s people and reflecting on God’s world renewed our sense of the great creation of a new people that is the theme of the letter, a people whose nature is holy, a royal priesthood, God’s own people who have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).
And, the challenge to us as Christians is in daily conversion of life to use one of Benedict’s expressions, we are to declare God’s wonderful works, to give expressions to the reasons for our hope, to be beware of the danger of slipping into old ways and of the dangers that come all around us.
We found afresh in this time of crisis, the grace of God and the Grace of each other and that grace is needed even more intensely now because we are in a world of crisis. Whether it is Ukraine, ISIS, Syria, the threat to Middle East Christianity, debt, inflation, hunger and climate change; all these are since our last meeting in 2013 and mean there are wars and rumours of wars. The next decades look no better, economically, militarily, spiritually, socially, scientifically, technologically, especially for the poorest and the weakest.
In this time of world crisis, Christians are to be a community of peace, the creation of God, not us, in Christ through the Spirit. We are to be a people of generosity and harmony across difference that testifies to the world, that says to the world “we have met and believed in the Lord, and are blessed with a blessing we share” (John 20 and 1 Peter 2:9-10).
I believe that times of great world crisis and they are greater today than perhaps ever before in human history, say to all of us, the time of ecumenical winter and the habits of division, of living separately, is past. New life will come with obedience and the choice of us taking risks in ecumenism, that step forward expecting to be blessed when we obey Christ.
We live amidst the ecumenism of suffering, where Christians are killed all round the world for being Christian, never asked which church they belong too. Are you an Anglican? No, are you a Christian?
We are well practised in the ecumenism of service. Theological understanding has advanced greatly. But none of us are yet imbued with the spirit of the love of Christ. Christ’s prayer for visible unity to convert and draw us close enough to each other, although not united, we share as one people in the paschal mystery. But we do not show that day to day.
What is visible, organic unity? Like those at the empty tomb we do not yet know our individual or collective future with Christ. Unlike them we do know the world’s future without Christ. The luxurious expense of well-practised Christian division is no longer affordable.
And in this time of world crisis I find hope that even Anglicans can come together because God is even bigger than the mistakes of the ABC.
My simple challenge to all of us today, is to re-find the spiritual passion of the past for ecumenism; theologically, in solidarity with the suffering, in love that covers a multitude of sins. To do that we must face our fears of each other and of the world together, we must love one another, we must give common witness and work towards a more visible unity that we reimagine in the grace of God.
For it is in the attributes of God that we see unity. Katherine Sonderegger’s recent Systematic Theology in her first chapter of volume one sets this out beautifully.
The world crisis must not be allowed to continue while the world church remains divided. At Pentecost God created a single new people. At the last day, Christ Pantokrator will come to judge us. We will have no answer to his judgement if we permit such a failure in this age of our divisions, such a failure in this age of climate change which threatens literally billions of our fellow human beings, of war and possible nuclear war.
We will have no answer to God, no answer except, we were used to being divided. We are called to offer our obedience to the prayer that there may be one in humility. And so, in that spirit of honesty I must say that after 9.5 years in this role I feel a deep sense of failure and shame on my efforts in the ecumenical area and before you I want to commit myself now and with you I pray and hope to seek afresh the future unity to which we are all called, not a unity of identity but a unity of diversity in the richness of God’s creation and in that and towards that and with that, may God give us courage, joy, love and peace. Amen
Pope Francis, sent greetings to the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly as it opened.
The Pope wished the representatives of the churches at the 31 August to 8 September assembly “a meaningful and fruitful meeting that deepens and strengthens the bonds of communion between the Churches and the ecumenical organizations present.”
The pontiff said in advance greetings that he has a “pastoral interest in the work of the Assembly.”
Pope Francis also noted that the Catholic Church has sent “delegated observers” to WCC assemblies since the WCC 3rd Assembly took place in New Delhi in 1961.
“I am glad that a delegation is also present this year, a sign of the strong relationship between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches that has consolidated over time,” the Pope said.
Francis referenced the assembly theme, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” He said Christians must have a common witness to the Gospel to address injustice and division in the world, not only among churches but also among religions, cultures, peoples, nations, and the entire human family.
“Our mission as Christians is to bring the fulfilment of this reconciliation to the world, with the Church being the instrument and visible sign of the unity to which God calls all people,” Francis said.
The Pope addressed unity among the world’s churches as necessary for reconciliation in other areas. “Reconciliation among Christians is the fundamental prerequisite for the credible mission of the Church,” he explained. “Ecumenism and Mission belong together and interrelate.”