The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, has used a speech to the Provincial Synod of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean to praise the Church for its active engagement in the life of the Anglican Communion. The Synod is meeting in Antsiranana in Madagascar.
In his speech, delivered in English with French translation, Bishop Anthony also spoke about the Chagos Islands, which are claimed by Mauritius but retained by the UK Government as the British Indian Ocean Territory when Mauritius was given independence. The Chagossian people were evacuated from the islands and the UK leased part of them to the US government for a military base. The UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice has said that the islands must be decolonised and returned to Mauritius. Late last year, the UK’s foreign minister, James Cleverly, said that he had begun negotiations with Mauritius over the islands’ future.
Bishop Anthony and the Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations had recently met with Professor Philippe Sands KC, a lawyer representing the Mauritian government, “and talked to him on what is happening in order to give support to the people of the Chagos Islands,” he told the Synod. “Earlier this year I spoke with your Primate on this matter and this morning I also had the privilege of speaking to the Bishop of the Mauritius islands [the Right Revd Joseph Sténio André] in order to assure him, and them, of our support to do what we can to ensure that this matter is addressed.”
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, and the Bishop of Mauritius, the Right Revd Joseph Sténio André, take time out from the official business of the Synod of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean to talk about Chagossians' desire to return to their homes in the Chagos Islands.
He stressed that the Anglican Communion Office, which he leads, was not to be seen as a “head office” for the Anglican Communion, and added that talk of a “Canterbury-led Communion” was misplaced. “The reality is that authority within the Anglican Communion is dispersed,” he said. “There is no centralised power-base within the Anglican Communion. There is indeed a historic link to the Church of England, however the Church of England is just one of the 42 provinces and is treated in the same way as all the others.”
The Anglican Communion Office, he said, existed “to support the 42 provinces of the Anglican Communion” and to “serve and facilitate the four Instruments of the Communion” – the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“If you want to summarise what we do as the Anglican Communion Office, I would say that we are the lubricants that oil the Instruments of the Communion.”
He reminded Synod members that the Instruments have begun programmes of assessing changes to the Communion’s structures. “All the four Instruments have indicated their openness and readiness for change to happen,” he said. “And as Anglicans are people of order, we would like to see that these changes in the structures take place through our normal processes that are already in existence.”
He finished his speech with a prayer for the province, saying: “as a province[you] are facing your own unique challenges. However, I have heard of the remarkable, courageous and faithful ways you are responding to your challenges and your contexts. You are being true salt and light in the contexts that you find yourself in.
“I think of Matthew 5: 14-16, where we read: ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.’
“My sincere hope and prayer is that the Church in the Indian Ocean continues to follow this call and act as salt and light. And I pray that, indeed, God’s wisdom guides you and His hope inspires you and His joy energise you, as you come together in this Synod.”