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Pope plans visit with Anglican leader to famine-hit South Sudan

POPE Francis has said he wants to make a trip to South Sudan together with the head of the Anglican Church to bring attention to the suffering of people stricken by civil war and famine.

The Pope made the disclosure in impromptu comments during a visit on Sunday to Rome’s Anglican church, All Saints’. It was the first visit to the parish by a pope, and marked the 200th anniversary of the church’s opening.

“My aides and I are studying the possibility of a trip to South Sudan,” he said in response to a question about Christian churches in Africa.

He recalled that in October the Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian bishops came to Rome to discuss the situation in their country and invited him to visit.

Pope Francis said they told him ‘but don’t come alone, come with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.’ Archbishop Welby is spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican communion, which has about 85 million members and is the world’s third-largest Christian denomination.

“The situation is a bit ugly down there but we have to do it because the three of them (the local bishops from different churches) together want peace and they are working together for peace,” Pope Francis said.

Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy, Riek Machar, ended with fighting, often occurring along ethnic lines. Both sides have targeted civilians, human rights groups say. President Kiir’s government declared a famine in some part of the country last week.

South Sudan has been hit by the same east African drought that has pushed Somalia back to the brink of famine, six years after 260,000 people starved to death in 2011.

The Pope said the trip would likely last just one day, which Vatican sources have said would be for security reasons.

No indication was given as to when it could take place but sources have said it would be this year.

At the Anglican Church, Bishop Robert Innes welcomed the Pope by praising the Roman Catholic leader for his solidarity with refugees and migrants.

Anglicans split from Catholicism in 1534, when England’s King Henry VIII was denied a marriage annulment. Both churches are striving toward greater closeness.

The Pope in his homily acknowledged that Anglicans and Catholics ‘viewed each other with suspicion and hostility’ in past centuries. He encouraged both faiths to be ‘always more liberated from our respective prejudices from the past’.



—This story ran in full in the March 3 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.

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