Pope, Anglican and Scottish church leaders to pray in Africa

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of a church in Scotland will jointly lead a prayer vigil for peace during his visit to South Sudan next month, the Vatican announced Saturday.

He released details of the pontiff’s itinerary during his trips to Africa from July 2-7, which he will begin in Congo. Next, he will travel to South Sudan, where he will make what is being billed as a historic “ecumenical peace pilgrimage” with the Reverend Justin Welby, who leads the Anglican Church, and the Very Reverend Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly. of the Church of Scotland.

The visit aims to reinforce a 2018 agreement aimed at ending the civil war in South Sudan.

The trip to Africa will be the first overseas trip for the pontiff since becoming accustomed to using a wheelchair on occasion in public lately as he struggles with a ligament problem of the knee.

Francis, 85, battled a major medical problem last summer, when he underwent bowel surgery in July necessitated by what the Vatican said was a severe narrowing of the colon.

As the warring parties signed the peace accord after 20 months of violent conflict, South Sudan faces serious challenges, including an economy at risk of collapse, a deteriorating humanitarian situation and “political will unstable to implement the peace accord,” the Church of Scotland said. .

“I am truly honored to have the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in South Sudan in the search for peace, reconciliation and justice,” Greenshields said in the statement. He said Francis, Welby and himself came “as servants of the worldwide church.”

On the first full day of their pilgrimage to South Sudan, the three men will visit a camp in Juba for internally displaced people.

While in Congo, Francis will deliver the homily during mass at Kinshasa’s Ndolo airport. After his arrival in Goma, he will deliver another homily during Mass at Kibumba camp. Earlier this year, thousands of people in Congo were displaced after fleeing clashes between the Congolese army and rebel fighters.

Francis will also meet victims of violence in Beni and eastern Congo, the Vatican said. Last year, two explosions hit a Catholic church and a market in Beni on the same day. The explosions were claimed by the Central Africa Province of the Islamic State group.

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