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Kirk moderator joins Pope in historic South Sudan pilgrimage

The Moderator of the Church of Scotland has described his historic pilgrimage with the Pope to South Sudan as a “sign of Christian unity”.

The Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury were invited to the war-torn African state to support peace moves.

It is the first time the leaders of the three faith traditions have come together for such a trip in 500 years.

Senior Kirk clergy also met President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his deputies.

Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshields (right) joined Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis to meet South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit

The visit by the Catholic Church, Church of England and the Church of Scotland to the world’s youngest country officially began on Friday as Pope Francis touched down at Juba Airport.

The Pope, Dr Greenshields and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby were greeted with fanfare at Juba’s airport before traveling through singing, cheering crowds to the “Palais de la Nation”.

They hope the visit will renew a commitment to peace and reconciliation.

Dr Greenshields told BBC Scotland: “This is the first time since the Reformation – that’s going back over 500 years – that the three very distinctive traditions have ever come together to do something like this.

“It’s a sign of Christian unity.”

He added: “The South Sudanese government were the ones who invited us to come for this pilgrimage of peace.

“I think they felt it might give some impetuousness to what’s been very much a stalling peace process over the last four or five years.”

More than 60% of South Sudan’s 11 million population is estimated to be Christian.

They mainly belong to Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian traditions.

South Sudan has been ravaged by a bloody civil war since its leaders disagreed over control of the oil-rich country in 2013, just two years after its independence from Sudan.

More than 400,000 people are thought to have died as a result of the conflict and although a peace deal in 2018 created a unity government, some of its key provisions have not been implemented.

An estimated 9.4 million people need humanitarian aid and an estimated two million people have been displaced in the country.

“If they are let down this time, where does the country go?” Dr. Greenshields said.

“I think it is incumbent on the leaders of the country to lay aside their differences and create an environment where their people can flourish.”

Pope Francis is spending three days in the country and will hold a Mass on Sunday.



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