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Pope, Archbishop and Moderator pray for peace in South Sudan in ecumenical Christmas letter

Posted on: December 24, 2020 11:00 AM
Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Moderator Martin Fair
Photo Credit: Estonia Foreign Ministry / Jaqui J Sze / Lambeth Palace / Church of Scotland

The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined the Pope and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland in a joint Christmas letter to the political leaders of South Sudan, urging a renewed push for peace. In their letter, Archbishop Justin Welby, Pope Francis and Moderator Martin Fair welcome the “small progress” the leaders have made but say it is not enough for the people of South Sudan. The Church leaders restate their commitment to make a historic joint visit the country, when conditions allow.

In April 2019, at the invitation of Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin led a spiritual retreat at the Vatican with the Church of Scotland Moderator for the political leaders. In a dramatic gesture at the end of the retreat, Pope Francis knelt and kissed the shoes of South Sudan’s government and opposition leaders, and urged them to pursue peace, saying: “Remember that with war, all is lost.”

In their letter, which was released today (Christmas Eve), the three Church leaders say “We remain prayerfully mindful of the commitments made at the Vatican in April 2019 – yours to bring your country to a smooth implementation of the Peace Agreement, and ours to visit South Sudan in due course, as things return to normalcy.

“We have been glad to see the small progress you have made, but know it is not enough for your people to feel the full effect of peace. When we visit, we long to bear witness to a changed nation, governed by leaders who, in the words of the Holy Father last year, ‘hold hands, united . . . as simple citizens’ to ‘become Fathers (and Mothers) of the Nation.’”

They add: “We pray, this Christmas, that you will know greater trust among yourselves and a greater generosity of service to your people. We pray you know the peace that surpasses understanding in your own hearts and in the heart of your great nation (Philippians 4:7).”

South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. A Civil war erupted in December 2013. The Churches of South Sudan have been working together to help broker and shore-up a peace deal, which was signed by President, Salva Kiir and opposition leaders, including Dr Riek Machar, in 2018.

  • Click here to read the Church Leader’s Christmas Letter to the political leaders of South Sudan