Archbishop of York visits Pope Francis

Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York in the Church of England, is leading a delegation on a visit to Rome from May 20-24. As part of their journey, they have visited the Basilicas of St Peters and St Paul Outside the Walls, where they spent time praying in the crypts. Prayer at the tombs of the apostles is a traditional focus of pilgrimage to Rome.

On Sunday, the delegation attended All Saints Anglican Church, an English parish in the heart of Rome where the Archbishop preached. He also preached at the Anglican Centre in Rome on Tuesday. Other visits will be to the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Roman Catholic association dedicated to social service; the Benedictine monastery of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, from which Pope St Gregory sent St Augustine to Canterbury; and the Venerable English College, a seminary training English and Welsh Roman Catholic priests.

The highlight of their trip was a private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace. Archbishop Cottrell said that his audience with Pope Francis, at which he was accompanied by his chaplain, the Revd Dr Jenny Wright, and his wife, Rebecca, had “further consolidated the strong bonds of friendship between our two World Communions. We are now looking forward, for further cooperation between the Dicasteries of the Vatican and the Anglican Centre in Rome.” Archbishop Ian Ernest, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See, accompanied them on their visit. The delegation was also accompanied by Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, and Revd Martin Browne OSB, the Dicastery official responsible for relations with Anglicans.

During the meeting, the Archbishop did not miss the opportunity to show his gratitude for Pope Francis’ coronation gift to King Charles III. Pope Francis gave relics of the True Cross which have been incorporated into a new processional cross used at the coronation and now residing in Wales. It is known as the Cross of Wales.

The Archbishop’s visit this week also includes meetings with Vatican departments connected with evangelization and ecumenism. On Wednesday, he will participate in a conversation with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, of the Dicastery for Evangelization, at a conference entitled “The Ecumenical Impact on Evangelization”.

Archbishop Cottrell spoke of the encouragement of meeting people within the Roman Catholic Church leadership. “My prayer is that Christians of all denominations can work together more and be united in our desire to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as we look to share the love of God as seen in Jesus with the many in our world who long for hope and meaning in their lives.

“It is my experience that when we, the Church of Jesus Christ in all its manifold shapes and sizes, reach out together in mission, in service of the world, and in proclamation of the gospel, that our unity is strengthened and revealed.”

Archbishop Cottrell’s visit is being hosted by Archbishop Ernest, who said that the visit: “comes as an affirmation of the longing of the Anglican Communion to diligently and constantly work for the visible unity of Christians. The personal commitment of Archbishop Stephen, in the different callings he has exercised, to encourage a collaborative spirit amongst different groups of people, in spite of cultural, denominational, and religious differences, inspires and encourages us to carry forward with love the mission entrusted to the Anglican Centre in Rome.” The Anglican Centre is a vital link between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church, working on shared projects as well as offering opportunities for study, hospitality and encounter.

While in Rome, Archbishop Cottrell is sharing daily video updates via:

Coronation ceremony marks turning point in Catholic-Anglican relations

When King Charles III and his wife, Queen Consort Camila, are crowned on Saturday, the event will mark a historic juncture in Catholic-Anglican relations, as it will be the first time a Catholic bishop has participated in the ceremony in four centuries.

In a May 5 statement, the Archdiocese of Westminster in the UK, overseen by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, called Saturday’s coronation “an historic occasion for the nation, and also for the Catholic community.”

“For the first time in over 400 years, a Catholic Archbishop will take part in a Coronation in this country,” the statement said, referring to the fact that Nichols has not only been invited to attend the ceremony, but he will also give a blessing.

Other Catholic representatives at the coronation will be Vatican Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the newly-appointed apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Spanish Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía, as well as Archbishop Mark O’Toole of Cardiff, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin.

Read the complete article in Crux

In a May 5 tweet, Nichols said he was “privileged” to take part in the coronation ceremony, saying he’ll be standing beside the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders “to invoke God’s blessing on His Majesty the King.”

In a May 2 tweet, British Ambassador to the Holy See Chris Trott said, “We are thrilled that Cardinal Parolin will represent Pope Francis at the Coronation,” noting that the last cardinal to do so “would probably have been Reginald Pole. In 1553.”

King Charles ascended to the throne last fall following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who had reigned for 70 years, setting a historical record by becoming England’s longest-reigning monarch. She had just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee when she passed away at the age of 94.

Charles will be formally crowned in an Anglican ceremony presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Westminster Abbey in London on May 6.

Historical tensions between Catholics and Anglicans date back to 1534 when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and declared himself head of the Church of England. However, Nichols and many other observers have said that rift and the tensions that ensued finally faded during Queen Elizabeth II’s time on the throne.

Her 70-year reign spanned seven different pontificates, beginning with Pope Pius XII. She met with Pope Francis in 2014. The last pope to meet her in the United Kingdom was Benedict XVI during his visit in 2010.

When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, the religious landscape of the country was drastically different, and tensions between Catholics and Anglicans were more acute.

According to the Archdiocese of Westminster’s statement, in 1953, “it would not have been permitted for any Catholic to enter a Protestant church, let alone to take part in a Coronation service. This significant step is the fruit of decades of ecumenical relations.”

In the lead-up to Saturday’s coronation, churches throughout the United Kingdom were invited to hold a triduum of prayer, of sorts, for King Charles from May 3-5. Nichols invited Catholics to participate by offering up their daily tasks and through formal prayers such as the rosary and the Mass.

The three-day prayer initiative closed Friday evening when, per the request of the bishops of England and Wales, each Catholic community was asked to offer a special Mass in the King’s honour prior to Saturday’s coronation ceremony.

Nichols and the Presidents of Churches Together in England urged Christians of all confessions to join in the moment of prayer, calling it “a moment of great importance and joy for this nation.”

The Archdiocese of Westminster’s statement Friday quoted Nichols as saying the coronation ceremony would be symbolic, “because it respects our history, it builds on our history, and it complements the history, both in this way, and with the presence and greeting of the faith leaders from the other major religions now present in this country.”

Despite the fact that the coronation is an Anglican ceremony, Nichols said there are still traces of Catholicism and pointed to three specific moments he said highlight the “profoundly Christian nature” of the event.

The first is that the King will observe a moment of silent prayer, he said, saying, “I’ve been told this is his way of expressing his first allegiance, which is to Almighty God. And then, that having been done, he can accept the allegiance of others.”

For the first time in a coronation ceremony, following the Constitutional Oath, the King will pray out loud in his own name, representing a ‘public moment’ in the service.

Nichols said the second moment is the anointing of the King, which he called a “tangible expression of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which goes back to Old Testament times,” and is something “which is precious and in these coronation settings is intimate and therefore private.”

This part of the ceremony will take place behind a screen, and the oil used to anoint King Charles was blessed in Jerusalem. At this point in the ceremony, Welby will anoint the King on his head, hands, and breast, an act that also reflects the Catholic act of anointing in the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.

A third aspect of the ceremony with Catholic connotations is when the King and Queen Consort will receive communion, Nichols said.

In reference to the oath Charles will swear to uphold the Protestant succession while Catholic prelates are participating in the ceremony, Nichols said the oath is a constitutional act, reflecting “our desire for continuity,” and is important for the “stability and constitutional maturity” of the country, as the King is a constitutional monarch.

In addition to the Catholic representation at the coronation, the leaders of other faith traditions, including Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikh leaders, have also been invited to attend.

The presence of other Christian leaders and leaders of other faith communities has been broadly hailed as part of the King’s commitment to maintaining the way of life in a country that is drastically more religiously diverse than when his mother took the throne in the 1950s.

Seventy years ago, more than 80 percent of England was Christian, yet secularism and mass migration over the elapsing decades have changed that. According to Fortune Magazine, the number of Christians in England is now less than half, with the latest census figures saying 37 percent state they have no religion, while 6.5 percent declare themselves Muslim, and 1.7 percent Hindu.

This change is felt most acutely in London, where more than a quarter of citizens adhere to a non-Christian faith.

In a famous interview in the 1990s, while still in his role as the Prince of Wales, Charles made the historic statement that he would like to be known as “the defender of faith,” marking a small but deeply significant diversion from the British monarch’s historic title as, “defender of the faith,” meaning Christianity and, specifically, the Church of England.

His emphasis on religious diversity has been hailed as especially important in an increasingly diverse nation where clashes between different faith communities, such as Hindus and Muslims, are still happening, where antisemitism has been a political issue, and where historic differences between Catholics and Protestants can still be felt in Northern Ireland.

In addition to sending Parolin as his representative from Rome, Pope Francis has also gifted King Charles relics of what are believed to be the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, which will be included in a new processional Cross of Wales to be used at Charles’s coronation.

In his statement Friday, Nichols said he sees the diverse participation in Saturday’s coronation as part of Charles’s commitment to openness with regard to all faiths and their free expression in British society, alongside the country’s Christian roots.

Referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion during the ceremony that people pledge their allegiance to the King, Nichols said it is an invitation, not a command.

“It’s a lovely invitation and I hope people will take it up in their own way to express that they wish King Charles God’s blessing, and they wish him well in his spirit of service which he brings to this coronation,” he said.

Pope Francis gifts relics from the True Cross to King Charles III

The Cross of Wales, a new processional cross presented by King Charles III as a centenary gift to the Church in Wales, will lead the Coronation procession at Westminster Abbey on 6 May.

In a significant ecumenical gesture, the Cross of Wales will incorporate a relic of the True Cross, the personal gift of Pope Francis to the King to mark the Coronation. The relics, set into the silver cross, are two small wooden splinters from the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Words from the last sermon of St David are chased on the back of the Cross in Welsh: “Byddwch lawen. Cadwch y ffydd. Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain”, which translates as: “Be joyful. Keep the faith. Do the little things.” The Cross was blessed by the Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, at Holy Trinity Church, Llandudno, on April 19. It will be officially received by the Church in Wales at a service to follow the Coronation and its use going forward will be shared between the Anglican and Catholic Churches in Wales.

Welcoming the gift on behalf of the Church in Wales, Archbishop Andrew said, “We are honoured that His Majesty has chosen to mark our centenary with a cross that is both beautiful and symbolic. Its design speaks to our Christian faith, our heritage, our resources and our commitment to sustainability. We are delighted too that its first use will be to guide Their Majesties into Westminster Abbey at the Coronation Service.”

Speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in Wales, the Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, Mark O’Toole, said, “With a sense of deep joy we embrace this Cross, kindly given by King Charles, and containing a relic of the True Cross, generously gifted by the Holy See. It is not only a sign of the deep Christian roots of our nation but will, I am sure, encourage us all to model our lives on the love given by our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We look forward to honouring it, not only in the various celebrations that are planned but also in the dignified setting in which it will find a permanent home.”

Additionally, Archbishop John told The Times, “It’s hugely significant. It’s a remarkable thing that the King has been able to find favour with the Vatican and as a result of that very good relationship, Pope Francis has agreed to gift these small fragments of the holy cross.”

The coronation service

“The coronation will be an Anglican service, but the prominent inclusion of a gift from the head of the Roman Catholic Church reflects how other denominations and faiths will be represented,” reported the BBC.

The service on May 6 will be led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has emphasized that the coronation is fundamentally a religious ritual and likened it to the ordination of a priest. In the official souvenir program, the archbishop said that in the middle of all the “magnificence and pomp” is a moment of “stillness and simplicity” when the King is anointed with holy oil, dressed in a simple white shirt and will be “in the full knowledge that the task is difficult and he needs help.”

The coronation, which has remained much the same for more than 1,000 years, formalizes the monarch’s role as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and marks the transfer of their title and powers. The last coronation of a British monarch was that of the late Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Westminster Abbey has been Britain’s coronation church since 1066 and King Charles III will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned in May 2023.

During the service, Charles will swear to uphold the law and the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury will anoint the King’s hands, breast, and head with holy oil and he will then be presented with items including the Royal Orb, representing religious and moral authority; the Scepter, representing power; and the Sovereign’s Scepter, a rod of gold topped with a white enamelled dove, a symbol of justice and mercy. Finally, the archbishop places St Edward’s Crown on the King’s head.

It is not actually necessary for the monarch to be crowned to become King – Charles automatically became King the moment his mother Queen Elizabeth II died.

The True Cross

Relics of the True Cross have long been revered, and pilgrimages have been conducted to the churches where they are kept, despite skepticism about the volume and authenticity of such relics and whether they could all come from a single cross.

There are no early accounts that the Apostles or early Christians preserved the physical cross. Tradition has it that Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine I, travelled to the Holy Land 326–328 where she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to have been used at the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves. Helena was not sure which of the three was the cross on which Jesus died until a miracle revealed one as the True Cross.

Designing the Cross of Wales

Designed and made by master silversmith Michael Lloyd, in consultation with the Royal Collection, it is crafted from recycled silver bullion provided by the Royal Mint at Llantrisant, a shaft of Welsh windfall timber, and a stand of Welsh slate.

Dr Frances Parton, Deputy Curator of the Goldsmiths’ Company, who managed the commission said, “The Cross of Wales shows the relevance of traditional skills and craftsmanship in the modern world. Using the ancient craft of chasing silver, Michael Lloyd has created a beautiful object which combines a powerful message with a practical purpose. We are thrilled that the Cross will both feature in the Coronation and see regular use within the Church in Wales.”

Designer and maker, Michael Lloyd said, “This project started with a love of the material, its malleability, its potential for expression. The commission has allowed me to delve into the previous 1,000 years of faith and history. Now, with more than 267 thousand hammer blows, the Cross has emerged from the inanimate sheets of silver, and I am delighted it will be used as part of the Coronation Service on 6th May.”

“Inspired by medieval Welsh art and design, the Cross of Wales combines historical reference with the very best contemporary craftsmanship”, said Tim Knox, Director of the Royal Collection. “It has been a unique and interesting project which we have been delighted to consult upon.”

In compliance with the Hallmarking Act, the silver elements of the Cross bear a full hallmark (of the London Assay Office), including the Royal Mark (leopard’s head) which was applied by the King himself in November 2022 when visiting the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London.

Anna Rowlands seconded to Synod Secretariat and Dicastery for Integral Human Development

A leading Durham University theologian is to help shape the Catholic Church for years to come.

Professor Anna Rowlands has been selected for a secondment that will see her spend two years working with the General Secretariat of the Synod, and the Dicastery (Department) for Integral Human Development of the Holy See (Vatican).

Her role includes working closely with the team managing the global Synod process established by Pope Francis.

The Synod is the largest grassroots listening process undertaken by the Catholic Church and aims to renew processes of participation, governance, and mission in the life of the Church.

It will result in two major world meetings in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024 and will examine key global realities that will help to shape the Catholic Church.

In addition, Professor Rowlands will work to support the core research work of the Holy See department that speaks on matters of politics, economics, climate and migration.

Professor Anna Rowlands is the St Hilda Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, in Durham’s Department of Theology and Religion, and a member of the University’s Centre for Catholic Studies.

Lambeth Palace responds to GSFA statement

Lambeth Palace responds to the recent statement by the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA).

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson has said:

“At last week’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Ghana, there was widespread support for working together patiently and constructively to review the Instruments of Communion, so that our differences and disagreements can be held together in unity and fellowship. The Archbishop is in regular contact with his fellow Primates and looks forward to discussing this and other matters with them over the coming period.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury commented last week at the ACC in Ghana that these structures are always able to change with the times.

“We note the statement issued today by some Anglican Primates and we fully appreciate their position. As was reaffirmed in multiple discussions at the ACC in Ghana however, no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon by the Instruments of Communion.

“The deep disagreements that exist across the Anglican Communion on sexuality and marriage are not new. The 42 member Churches of the Anglican Communion are independent and autonomous, but at the same time interdependent. It is a fundamental principle of the Anglican Communion that no province can bind another province, and no Instrument of Communion has any jurisdictional authority over any province.

“In a world of conflict, suffering and uncertainty, we must remember that more unites us than divides us. Despite our differences, we must find ways to continue walking and working together as followers of Jesus Christ to serve those in need. It was clear at this week’s global Anglican gathering in Accra that many Anglicans share this view. It remains the Archbishop’s prayer and his call to Anglicans around the Communion.”

The Anglican Communion’s Secretary General, the Right Reverend Anthony Poggo, has also issued a statement, which you can read here

ACC-18 visits former British slave castle in Ghana with the Archbishop of Canterbury

Members of the global Anglican Consultative Council took time out from their week-long 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18) in Accra today to visit a 17th-century castle on Ghana’s Cape Coast. At the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, many enslaved Africans were held at Cape Coast Castle before being transported to the Americas on British slave ships. After touring the castle and visiting the basement dungeons, known as slave holes, and the cells for condemned prisoners, members of the ACC took part in a Service of Reflection and Reconciliation at the adjacent Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.

They were joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, President of the ACC; the Archbishop of Ghana and Primate of West Africa, the host province of ACC-18, Cyril Ben-Smith; and the Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of Jamaica, Howard Gregory, attending ACC-18 in his role as Chair of the Commission on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion.

During the tour, ACC members heard how Africans were taken from their homes sometimes hundreds of miles away, and held with little ventilation and no windows before being transported across the Atlantic. Many died on the journey to the slave castle, some died at the castle while others died in the journey across the Atlantic.

Archbishop Justin Welby paused to pray in silence in a small basement prison cell where up to 200 men at a time were kept, underneath what was then an Anglican church.

During the tour, ACC members also saw the women’s cells, the place where enslaved men and women were branded, and the Door of No Return through which enslaved people passed before boarding ships bound for the Americas.

Commenting on the visit, Archbishop Justin said today: “It was profoundly moving and humbling to visit Cape Coast Castle today with my brother Archbishops from Ghana and Jamaica. It was a reminder that the abomination of transatlantic chattel slavery was blasphemy: those who imprisoned men and women in those dungeons saw them as less than human.

“It is to the Church of England’s eternal shame that it did not always follow Christ’s teaching to give life. It is a stain on the wider church that some Christians did not see their brothers and sisters as created in the image of God, but as objects to be exploited.

“Our response must begin on our knees in prayer and repentance. In calling on the God who blesses the broken, the reviled and those who mourn. In looking to God who transforms, redeems and reconciles.

“But our response does not end there. We are called to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, to live out the Beatitudes in big ways and small.”

During the Service of Reflection and Reconciliation, the congregation prayed for forgiveness and reflected on current examples of injustice.

The Bishop of Cape Coast, Victor Atta-Baffoe, prayed: “Loving Father, you forgive us when we turn to you. Help us to forgive ourselves and others. Help us not to hold grudges but to move forward with peace. Teach us to reach out to those in need and speak out against injustice. To build a world of equality and fairness in our own lives and for all people. Amen”

Inviting the congregation to reflect, Archbishop Howard Gregory said: “Our world can sometimes seem a very unjust place, where people with the loudest voices get the most attention. But Jesus describes a world turned upside down. A world where suffering people, the meek and those who act with justice, mercy and courage are blessed.

“Today is a chance for each of us to reflect on what type of world we are building. Let us reflect on the Beatitudes and think about our own actions and inactions.”

Today’s visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ACC follows the recent report published by the Church Commissioners of England into its endowment’s historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery. In response to the findings, the Church Commissioners have committed to £100 million of funding to a programme of impact investment, research and engagement. The impact investment fund will invest particularly in communities impacted by historic transatlantic slavery.

The Archbishop toured Cape Coast Castle with Archbishop Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, the Primate of the Anglican Church of the Province of West Africa; Archbishop Howard Gregory, the Anglican Primate of the West Indies, and ordained and lay members of the global Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) which is meeting in Accra this week.

ACC-18 welcomes exploration of “structure and decision-making” in the Anglican Communion

A proposal for a piece of work to “explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making [in the Anglican Communion] to help address our differences” has been welcomed by members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

Today (Tuesday 14 February), at their week-long meeting in Accra, Ghana, members of the ACC, gathered for their 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18), affirmed “the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully.”

The words were in a resolution proposed by IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. ACC members asked for proposals from IASCUFO “that may impact the ACC constitution” to be brought for full discussion to the next meeting of the ACC, which is expected to be hosted by the Church of Ireland in three years’ time. In the meantime, IASCUFO is asked to proceed with the work and report its progress to the Instruments of Communion.

The Chair of IASCUFO, the Right Revd Graham Tomlin from the Church of England, said that the resolution “comes in the particular context of the Anglican Communion right now”. He added: “We do face challenges, as we all know, as a Communion with the fractures that we experience, the impairment of our of our communion and highlighted by the recent discussion in the General Synod in the Church of England, but other wider issues as well.

“And therefore this is a new situation that we have to address in our communion that is even different from what it was 10, 15 years ago, let alone when the Instruments of Communion were put together and evolved in every instance.

“But I’d also want to set that in an even wider context, which is that we now live in a world which is much more unstable and fractured than it was when the Instruments of Communion evolved in their current form, and because we live in this very fast changing and really quite broken world, we do need to pay attention to our structures and are they fitted for the challenges we face as a communion, but even, more importantly, the challenges we face as a world community right now at the moment”

He said that the proposal would “explore structures we have as an Anglican Communion” and for “resolving some of our disputes, enabling us to live together despite our disagreements.”

He added: “One person said should this be called a unity project. In one sense, maybe yes, it should, because that is the goal of this project. The goal is not differentiation or divergences or splits. It is acknowledging the reality of a fractured, impaired communion but looking towards walking together, for a while maybe at a distance, but to that looking forward to that day when we will realise the full unity which is the gift and the invitation of Christ to us. . .

“The project is about how we learn to give each other space, not how we learn to force one another to do things that we don’t want to do, but to give each other space within a wider structure that holds together the whole of the Communion while we navigate these times that we’re in right now.”

The Primate of Tanzania, Archbishop Maimbo Mndolwa, said that the term “differentiation” needed to be defined; and said that the member churches (provinces) of the Anglican Communion should have a say over any new structures.

The Revd Andrew Atherstone from the Church of England welcomed the proposal, and the way it was phrased, saying: “what it commits us to is to some hard thinking. It it commits us to that focus of exploration – exploration and thinking are really good things for us to be doing together.

“And it doesn’t take us further than that at this stage. If anything is to come out of that hard thinking, if there are viable proposals, they’ll come back to this group. We’ll have full conversations about them, so

I warmly support the initiative to get it all rolling.”

By a show of hands, the members of ACC-18 approved the resolution:

The Anglican Consultative Council:

  1. Welcomes the proposal from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making to help address our differences in the Anglican Communion;
  2. Affirms the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully;
  3. Asks IASCUFO for any proposals that may impact the ACC constitution to be brought for full discussion to ACC-19; and
  4. asks IASCUFO to proceed with this work and report its progress to the Instruments of Communion.

ACC discusses ‘good differentiation’ amid divisions in Anglican Communion on human sexuality

The Episcopal Church’s representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council participated Feb. 14 in a discussion on the challenges of maintaining – and, in some ways, restoring – unity among the worldwide Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces at a time of stark divisions over human sexuality and marriage equality.

About 110 representatives from 39 of those provinces are in Accra, Ghana, this week for the 18th meeting of ACC, one of the Anglican Communion’s four Instruments of Communion and the only to include laity. The other three are the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, the Primates’ Meeting and the archbishop of Canterbury, an office known as the “focus of unity.”

During presentations originating from small table discussions about a report on unity, faith and order, Annette Buchanan, a lay leader from the Diocese of New Jersey, expressed concerns about the Anglican Communion’s structural power dynamic that gives greater weight to the voices of bishops and other clergy over lay voices.

“No one asked the laity when you were at Lambeth what issues would be the priority issues,” Buchanan said, addressing the two bishops who were leading the session.

“No one asked the laity whether or not gender-based issues or LGBTQ issues were the priority. … The voices of the majority are not being heard. Those who are in the hierarchy have instruments whereby they discuss issues with each other, and there is no input [from lay leaders]. And so, this becomes a matter of power, status, control.”

Buchanan’s reference to the Lambeth Conference connected the issue of lay priorities to the divisions that were on display at that conference held late last July and into early August in Canterbury, England. Some conservative bishops, mostly from provinces in Africa and Asia, sought to amplify their criticisms of The Episcopal Church and other provinces that have welcomed LGBTQ+ people more fully into the life of their churches, however, it was not evident that such criticisms reflected the daily concerns of the parishioners in the conservative bishops’ provinces.

Bishop Graham Tomlin of the Church of England, who serves as chair of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, thanked Buchanan for asserting the important role of lay leaders. “It’s a really helpful reminder to us to make sure that voice of the laity – which of course is here in the ACC but not in the other instruments – is heard in the bit of work that we do as well.”

The Anglican Communion is made up of autonomous, interdependent churches that all have historic roots in the Church of England. There is no central decision-making body in the Anglican Communion. Provinces retain authority to make decisions for themselves while coming together at ACC about every three years for prayer, worship and discussions on the future of the Anglican Communion.

Each Anglican province may appoint and send up to three members to ACC, typically a bishop, another clergy member and a lay person. Buchanan, a former Union of Black Episcopalians president, is joined in Ghana by Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton and the Rev. Ranjit Mathews, the Diocese of Connecticut’s canon for mission, advocacy, racial justice and reconciliation, representing The Episcopal Church.

Tomlin led the afternoon session Feb. 14 along with Bishop Paul Korir of Kenya. In presenting their report on behalf of the Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, Tomlin and Korir stressed that the structure of the Anglican Communion has evolved and may continue to evolve to accommodate differences among provinces while fostering unity around core faith beliefs.

The commission’s members, Korir said, “quickly agreed that all Anglicans, indeed all Christians, are called by God to consider carefully and prayerfully what communion, “koinonia,” means. That is to consider the nature of the fellowship that we share in Jesus Christ.” The commission’s report and recommendations included a proposal to study the Anglican Communion’s current structure and report back to ACC in three years on possible paths forward.

“We hope to be able to speak directly to some of the present impairments in the life of the Anglican Communion,” Korir said.

Such impaired relations were made plain at this in-person meeting by the absence of three Anglican provinces. Leaders of the provinces of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda have not participated in the Instruments of Communion for at least 15 years because of their objections to some provinces’ ordination of openly gay and lesbian clergy and adoption of marriage rites and blessings for same-sex couples.

Last week, the Church of England’s General Synod endorsed its own plan to bless same-sex unions for the first time while stopping short of condoning same-sex marriage. A group of conservative Anglican leaders known as the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches responded by saying that the Church of England’s actions call into question Welby’s ability to uphold the archbishop of Canterbury’s role as a “focus of unity.”

The Rev. Joseph Bilal, an ACC member from South Sudan, rose to say that he thinks one of the roots of impairment is a breakdown in the ability of Anglicans to listen openly.

“In which way could we be able as [the] Anglican Communion to listen to one another and also act in a way that it doesn’t affect another?” Bilal said. That “is one of the biggest struggles that I have.”

Mathews, The Episcopal Church’s clergy member on ACC, said he appreciated Bilal’s point about the importance of listening.

“If we look around this room, this is the beauty of our communion, the diversity,” Mathews said. “Any sort of unity should not be weaponized or seen as coercive, but if we can live and truly be who we are and if the quality of our listening can go deeper, I think that’s the invitation and our vocation as the communion.”

Senzo Mbhele, the lay member from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, shared that his table’s discussion had focused on how core Christian beliefs transcend denominational, provincial and cultural differences.

“When we approach the throne of heaven one day, there’s no way God is going to say, ‘well done, my good and faithful Anglican.’ He will say, ‘well done, my good and faithful servants.’ And he will not differentiate between black or white, Global South or North,” Mbhele said.

At the same time, he warned that the work toward unity through faith may not overcome existing power imbalances. “The more we work together with different people, one of the dangers is that the more powerful will then suppress the cultures that are weaker, in whatever sense.”

The Rev. Andrew Atherstone, an ACC member from the Church of England, echoed such concerns while turning the focus on his own province.

“England always likes to think of itself as first … sort of first among equals,” Atherstone said. “Is that really appropriate in the new communion or whatever shape it might be? Some work on that from your group would be appreciated.” (The archbishop of Canterbury, who also heads the Church of England, often is considered the historic “first among equals” in the Anglican tradition.)

Tomlin acknowledged that his commission will have to consider the future of “the Anglican Communion in a post-colonial world.”

Actions of ACC are not binding on the member provinces, though Tomlin said in his introductory remarks that the provinces may better serve their shared mission by joining together.

“When we serve others in the name of Christ together, that is so much more powerful as a witness than when we do it alone,” he said.

Later in the day, ACC members considered their first set of resolutions, including the one on “good differentiation” submitted by the Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. The resolution “affirms the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully,” and it tasks the commission with developing proposals for the ACC to review.

After additional discussion by ACC members, the resolution passed with a show of hands.

Archbishop of Canterbury addresses concern over global Anglican structures

In a post-colonial world, the Church must find ways of demonstrating unity without one powerful group imposing its values on another, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said today.

In a presidential address to the 18th plenary meeting of the global Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-18), gathered in Accra, Ghana, Archbishop Justin said that “no one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse.”

He made the comments in a section of his speech talking about the instruments of communion – the four bodies that hold the Anglican Communion together: the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meeting, the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said that when times change so must the Instruments of Communion.

Leading up to his remarks about the Instruments, the Archbishop spoke of the significance of intentional discipleship and noted that it is “lived differently because of different cultures, for we are not the same, although we are one. That is one of the basic reasons why as well as being interdependent we are also autonomous as Provinces.

“There is no reason why one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse. Money, power, access to resources should never call the tune, yet such is the lust for power in all human beings – and I include myself, for I sin like everyone else – that one group always seeks to tell another what to do.

“That is why, in a post-colonial world, where every day we face more attacks on Christian faith and Christian churches, we have to find marks and signs that show we are one, and yet do not result in the imposition of one powerful group’s values on another. It does not matter whether it calls itself the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity and an instrument of Communion, the Primates’ meeting, the Lambeth Conference, or any other: any submission to the will of those outside our own Province must be voluntary, never compelled.

He challenged the ACC members to consider how to bridge the gap between interdependence and autonomy without abuse of power. He told the meeting that the Chicago Lambeth quadrilateral from the 1880s sets out what guides the belief of Anglicans and that the five Marks of Mission (the theme of ACC-18) are what Anglicans do.

The Instruments of Communion he indicated set out how we are organised and are brought together.

The Archbishop shared a brief history of each of the instruments and then continued, “The Instruments have grown and changed over the years. They have responded to changes caused by wars, colonialism, decolonising, corruption and failure, heresies and schisms, technological and scientific advances. They have never had either doctrinal or ethical authority, but they have moral force.”

Archbishop Justin spoke of the many changes the world has and continues to face and that the instruments must be “the way forward in mutual help where country comes after obedience to God.”

“My desire is to see Christ glorified in truth, and in my heart of hearts, I can say with truth that is what I aim for. I may well get things wrong but let me be clear – before other people outside this room gather to tell me what I must do – I will not cling to place or position as an Instrument of Communion provided the other Instruments choose a new way. The Instruments are just what their name suggests, they exist to serve the call of Christ.” (more…)

Arms trade is a ‘plague,’ pope says on flight back from Juba

Pope Francis asked the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland to join him for his usual post-trip news conference on their flight back to Rome from Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 5.

At the end of six days in African countries bloodied by war and conflict, Pope Francis said that “the biggest plague” afflicting the world today is the weapons trade.

Tribalism with its ancient rivalries is a problem, he told reporters Feb. 5, “but it is also true that the violence is provoked” by the ready supply of weapons and that making it easier for people to kill each other just to make money “is diabolical — I have no other word for it.”

Pope Francis told reporters returning to Rome with him from South Sudan that since the visit was an ecumenical one, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, would join him for the airborne news conference.

The pope had visited Congo Jan. 31-Feb. 3 before joining the other church leaders in South Sudan Feb. 3-5 to press the government to implement peace agreements, to console victims of the conflict and to encourage the country’s Christians to do their part.

Over the course of almost one hour, the three made opening remarks and responded to questions on topics ranging from violence in Africa to the criminalization of homosexuality and from the war in Ukraine to future papal travel, including the possibility of other ecumenical trips.

Pope Francis also was asked if his job had become more difficult since the death Dec. 31 of Pope Benedict XVI and the publication of various books and articles portraying the late pope as critical of Pope Francis.

“I was able to talk about everything with Pope Benedict and change opinions,” Pope Francis said. “He was always at my side, supportive, and if I had some difficulty, I would tell him, and we would talk.”

As an example, Pope Francis said that when he had said in an interview that for the Catholic Church marriage could be only between a man and a woman, but the church could accept civil union legislation providing legal protections to gay couples, a theologian went to “Pope Benedict and denounced me.”

“Benedict was not frightened,” he simply called “four cardinals who were first-class theologians” and asked for their opinions, which they gave, the pope said. “The story ended there.”

Stories that “Benedict was embittered by this or that decision” of Pope Francis have no foundation, he said. “I think the death of Benedict has been instrumentalized by people who want ‘to bring water to their own mill,'” meaning they want to reinforce their own position even if it harms another.

“People who would use a person who was so good, so godly” have no ethics, the pope said. They are not defending Pope Benedict but their own ideologies.

“I wanted to say clearly who Pope Benedict was. He was not bitter,” the pope said.

Asked about his health and future trips, the pope said his knee is still painful, but since “weeds never die,” he hopes to continue traveling. He plans to go to Lisbon in early August for World Youth Day and then to Marseille, France, Sept. 23 for a meeting about the church and society on the shores of the Mediterranean, a theme that obviously includes migration.

“And there is a possibility that from Marseille we will fly to Mongolia,” the pope said. For 2024, he added, a trip to India is being studied.

Pope Francis also was asked about telling the Associated Press in January that he believed it was an injustice to criminalize homosexuality; it is illegal in South Sudan while in Congo many LGBTQ young people are thrown out of their families.

The pope said he had discussed homosexuality with reporters on several occasions. The first time, he said, was flying back from Brazil in 2013, “when I said that if a person with a homosexual tendency is a believer and is seeking God, who am I to judge him?”

Returning to Rome from the World Meeting of Families in 2018, he said, he also spoke about it although the news conference was “a bit problematic because that day the letter of that boy came out,” using the Italian term “ragazzo” to refer to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who accused Pope Francis of ignoring the serial abuse carried out by Theodore E. McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, and demanding he resign.

Anyway, he said, during that news conference he told parents it was wrong to kick children out of the house or shun them because they are gay.

Those with a homosexual orientation “are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them,” the pope said.

Archbishop Welby, whose Church of England is having tense debates about blessings for same sex couples, told the reporters, “I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said there.”

The archbishop had said in January that he personally would not use his church’s new “Prayers of Love and Faith,” which bless, but do not confer the status of matrimony on same-sex unions. The archbishop said that as an “instrument of communion” among Anglicans worldwide, he would not offer the blessings that so many Anglican bishops, including in South Sudan, find objectionable.

Rev. Greenshields said he only wanted to make “a very short observation: There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away. There is nowhere in the four Gospels that I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whoever he meets.”

Both Archbishop Welby and Greenshields said they would be “delighted” to join the pope on another ecumenical pilgrimage.

Praying with South Sudan’s Christians, leaders urge new steps towards unity

As part of their historic ecumenical pilgrimage to South Sudan, Pope Francis, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, led an ecumenical prayer for peace Feb. 4 in Juba.

After scolding South Sudan’s political leaders and consoling some of its poorest victims, Pope Francis, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, rallied their faithful to prayer and action.

In a country where 60% of the population is Christian and where Christian leaders working together provided spiritual and practical support to the long drive for independence, the church leaders urged all Christians to work together to seek justice, to model unity and to press their divided political leaders to make peace.

“This ecumenical tradition of South Sudan is a precious treasure, an act of praise for the name of Jesus and an act of love for the church his bride, an example to all for the advancement of Christian unity,” Pope Francis said.

Some 50,000 South Sudanese gathered with the three leaders Feb. 4 for an evening ecumenical prayer service on the grounds of the John Garang Mausoleum, the burial place of the man who led the country to the 2005 peace agreement that set the stage for the country’s independence from Sudan in 2011.

Rev. Greenshields told the crowd that the leaders’ ecumenical pilgrimage was meant “to encourage the continued unity of the churches for the common good of the people of South Sudan, for justice and fullness of life for each and every citizen of this country.”

In his remarks, Pope Francis focused on the obligation of Christians “to pray, to work and to journey” together, breaking down all walls of suspicion and hostility between different political, ethnic or denominational groups while also valuing the unique identity of each.

God’s peace, he said, is “not only a truce amid conflicts, but a fraternal fellowship that comes from uniting and not absorbing; from pardoning and not overpowering; from reconciling and not imposing.”

Jesus’ command to all who follow him is “that you love one another,” and “it contradicts every ‘tribal’ understanding of religion,” the pope said. “‘That they may all be one.’ That is Jesus’ heartfelt prayer to the Father for all of us who believe.”

Archbishop Welby gave the homily at the prayer gathering as the sun set, providing some relief from the day’s high heat.

“The only way the world will know Jesus came from the Father is when his are one for God is one,” the archbishop said. “Our being one is how the world will know that Jesus is Lord, that God reigns over all powers and authorities, that the glory of the Father is believed, and more people come to know his love.”

When one is a Christian one is part of the same family, he said. “My dear brothers, Pope Francis, Moderator Iain and I are here as part of your family, your fellowship, to be with you and share with you in your suffering. We have traveled on this pilgrimage of peace in a way that has not been done before ever.”

“We cannot, we will not, be separated,” the archbishop told the crowd. “Nothing on earth can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from one another who share in that love. The blood of Christ unites us, regardless of our differences. It is sufficient alone for our salvation. We need no other sacrifices. My sister and brother are never, never, never my enemies.”

Those who claim the name Christian must act like Christians, he said, and should look to the earliest Christian communities as a model of sharing, of seeking reconciliation when there were disagreements and of reaching out to help others.

“When we recognize that everything is God’s, we are no longer fearful of losing it, because we know that God is a God of abundance, not lack, of greatness, not scarcity,” Archbishop Welby said. “We no longer cling to things when we know in our souls that everything belongs to God.”

The archbishop had special words of encouragement for the young people of South Sudan, a nation where some 70% of the population is under the age of 30. “If we value you, we will listen to your hopes for peace and opportunity and allow those hopes to shape our nations and churches.”

“You will not be deceived into war. You will not be forced to kill,” the archbishop said. “You will disagree with others, but still love them.”

But he also had a message for young men: “You will value and honor women, never raping, never violent, never cruel, never using them as those there simply to satisfy desire.”

“When we are one, we value and honor women,” Archbishop Welby said.

My heart breaks at violence in South Sudan, says Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said “my heart breaks with sorrow for South Sudan” amidst ongoing violence and sectarian conflict in the country.

Preaching at All Saints Anglican Cathedral in Juba this morning, the Archbishop urged those who have committed “secret crimes and evil deeds” to ask for God’s mercy and transformation and prayed they would know the “infinite love of Christ”.

The Archbishop is currently on a historic three-day Pilgrimage for Peace to South Sudan with Pope Francis and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

The day before the pilgrimage began on Friday, 27 people were killed in a raid in Kajo-Kiji, amid ongoing sectarian violence in the country.

In his sermon this morning Archbishop said: “Whoever you are here, whatever you have done in your life, if there are secret crimes and evil deeds that nobody else knows, God knows your heart. And He kneels before you. God in Jesus kneels before you, and he says: ‘Will you let me wash you?’ When he washes us we are changed.”

To cheers from thousands gathered outside the Cathedral, the Archbishop said: “My heart breaks, I can hardly speak, with sorrow for South Sudan. I beg that at every level, from the President to the smallest child, that people find the mercy of God and are transformed, and that there is peace and good government. That no one steals money. That no one kills their neighbour for cattle.

He added: “There is a darkness over South Sudan and many other countries in this world. But the light is not overcome by the darkness. The people of Christ are the light of this nation.

“If South Sudan finds peace, the world will find hope. The women in Congo will rejoice if you find peace. The refugees in Myanmar will rejoice if you find peace. The soldiers in Ukraine will rejoice if you find peace. Because you will show that God is great.

“With God, South Sudan has hope, and that hope is when its people take courage. And the courage is to live the scandalous Gospel of the infinite love of Christ.”

Later today the Archbishop, the Pope and the Moderator will meet with people displaced by conflict in South Sudan before addressing a joint open-air Prayer Vigil for Peace at John Garang Mausoleum in Juba.

Yesterday the three Christian leaders met with South Sudan’s political leaders and each issued calls for peace to South Sudan’s leaders gathered at the Presidential Palace in Juba.

The joint pilgrimage by leaders of Roman Catholic, Anglican and Reformed traditions is the first visit of its kind in history.

Pope appeals to South Sudan’s leaders to halt the bloodshed

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.”

Promoting democracy

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.”

Lasting peace is within “reach” in South Sudan

The President and the Vice Presidents of South Sudan have it within their “reach” to extend justice and compassion to all the people of the world’s youngest nation, the Moderator of the General Assembly has said.

Addressing President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Vice Presidents in Juba this afternoon, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields told them that the world “needs churches and leaders who are generous of heart, liberal of love, and profligate with God’s grace.”

The Moderator made the remarks at an official ceremony held at the “Palais de la Nation” alongside Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Greenshields said the world needs leaders who care about values, the conditions in which people live and act out their faith and work amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised.

“These things make for peace,” he added.

Earlier this afternoon, a bright and colourful ceremony was held at Juba Airport to greet Pope Francis’s plane.


The Moderator and the Archbishop of Canterbury boarded to meet him before he emerged from a different exit, to accommodate his wheelchair, and they officially began their historic, three-day Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many waving the British flag, lined the streets, cheering, waving and singing as their three spiritual leaders’ convoy made its way from the airport to the Palais de la Nation.

The Moderator, the Principal Clerk. Rev Fiona Smith, Rev Ian Alexander, who leads on international relations for the Church of Scotland, and Rev Shavon Starling-Louis, co-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA held a private meeting with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his vice-presidents.

The Republic of South Sudan has an estimated 10.9 million people and gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

The purpose of the visit is to renew a commitment to peace and reconciliation and stand in solidarity with millions of ordinary people who are suffering profoundly from continued armed conflict, violence, floods and famine.

Around 400,000 people are said to have lost their lives over the years, 9.4 million people need humanitarian aid and an estimated two million people have been displaced in the country.

Dr Greenshields’s address in full:

“Brothers and sisters, I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ.

“I come to you in this time of pilgrimage, with my brothers in Christ – Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin – we come in humility, unity and love.

“We come from our different traditions as servants of Christ and seek to share His hope that all will be one in Him, that churches and people will work together and witness together for a better future for the people of South Sudan, and for the whole world.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, said Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, a peace which brings justice for all – families, tribes, nations.

“Today, we need that peace.

“We need churches and leaders who are generous of heart, liberal of love, and profligate with God’s grace.

“We need leaders who care about the values by which our countries live, who care about the conditions in which people live, and who act out their faith in work amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised. These things make for peace.

“All the people are essential co-workers in God’s desire for a world in which all people can live life in fullness.

Life in fullness

“I believe it is in the reach of the President, Vice-Presidents, leaders and people of South Sudan to extend the reach of justice and compassion to the whole of this young and optimistic country, full of people ready to work for a vibrant and fulfilling future

“Today, we seek the wisdom and power of the Spirit to help us discern the way forward, to offer hope for everyone in South Sudan in the peace that comes from God through Jesus. A peace which will bring a chance for people to live as the prophet Isaiah promised:

“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant fields and eat their fruit; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people. (Isaiah 65)

“May all political, civic and international leaders join together in seeking God’s holistic promise of life in fullness for all God’s people.

“And may God’s blessings and peace be upon the resilient people of South Sudan. And thanks be to God.”

The church leaders – representing the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, global Anglican communion and Presbyterianism — pray that communities torn apart by violence can co-exist and develop in a peaceful, just and secure environment.

The pilgrimage was promised during a spiritual retreat at the Vatican in 2019 which brought together Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, former Moderator of the General Assembly, with South Sudanese politicians.

In a dramatic gesture at the end of that visit, the Pontiff knelt before the government leaders and opposition, kissing their shoes and urging them to pursue peace.

The Church of Scotland delegation was invited to South Sudan by the President.

The Kirk has a strong partnership with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan.

They have been working closely together since 2015 on a vital peace, reconciliation and conflict resolution programme.

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 Pilgrimage of Peace continues tomorrow.

The Five Marks of Mission: Today and Tomorrow – ACC prepares for 18th plenary

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 – – 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

Update on ecumenical relations of the Holy See

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.

Pope Francis, Anglican, Presbyterian leaders ask for prayers before trip

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 urges prayers for ‘pilgrimage of peace’ to South Sudan & DRC

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.

3 Voices to give 1 message in South Sudan on “quite unique” trip in Church history

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.”

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Consolidating years of ecumenical efforts

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.

Hopes high Pope’s African visit will clear path to peace

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.”