The Vatican and Lambeth Palace have announced that the first joint visit by a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury could take place in South Sudan early next in 2020. The news came after a private audience between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby at the Vatican on 13th November.
At the end of the meeting the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that, if the political situation in the country should allow the establishment of a transitional government of national unity in the next 100 days, at the expiry of the agreement signed in recent days in Entebbe, in Uganda, they intend to visit South Sudan together.
Confirming the announcement, Archbishop Justin Welby said in a Facebook post: “We discussed our shared passion for peace in South Sudan and agreed that if the political situation permits the creation of a transitional government of national unity, it is our intention to visit together.
“Our commitment to the teaching of Jesus means we long to see a lasting solution to the conflict in South Sudan. We renew our call for spiritual and political leaders there to strive for peace.”
“It was a great honour, as always, to visit the Pope today – I never fail to be bowled over by his simple and sincere love for Jesus and his energy for sharing the good news.”
Responding to the announcement, the Anglican Primate of South Sudan, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama said “The Episcopal Church of South Sudan appreciates the continued interest in, and commitment to prayer for, South Sudan and her people from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, and Pope Francis. We welcome their intention for a joint visit and join them in praying for lasting peace in South Sudan, and the formation of the new transitional government of national unity, which will enable this to happen.”
Earlier this year, at the invitation and with the participation of Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin led a spiritual retreat at the Vatican for South Sudan’s opposing political leaders.
The Churches of South Sudan have been integrally involved in the ongoing peace process, working to end five years of a deadly civil war.