World News

Pope and Justin Welby to visit South Sudan amid tensions over LGBTQ+ rights | South Sudan

Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury will begin a historic joint visit to South Sudan on Friday amid potential tensions over LGBTQ+ rights.

The leaders of the global Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, who are growing in numbers in sub-Saharan Africa, unlike in the west, will be joined in their “peaceful pilgrimage” by the leader of the Church of Scotland.

Pope Francis, Justin Welby and Ian Greenshields will meet with President Salva Kiir, bishops and clergy, and people displaced by conflict in the area.

Prior to the visit, Francis and Welby risked angering local political and church leaders with claims of same-sex relationships that contrast with the deeply conservative attitudes that prevail in South Sudan.

Francis said in an interview that laws criminalizing homosexuality are unfair. “We are all children of God, and God loves us for who we are and for the strength with which each of us fights for our dignity,” he said.

The Catholic Church should work to put an end to such laws, he said. “He has to do it.” In accordance with Catholic teaching, he called homosexual acts sinful, but added: “Let us distinguish between sin and crime.”

Sexual activity between men is against the law in South Sudan and is theoretically punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a fine. There has been little evidence in recent years that the law is being enforced, but rights groups say LGBTQ+ people are regularly subjected to discrimination and violence.

Welby said he was “extremely delighted” at the prospect of Church of England clergy blessing same-sex couples, though he personally would not offer such blessings for the sake of worldwide Church of England unity.

But Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, head of the Anglican Church in South Sudan, said Welby “failed to defend biblical truth” and his role as the moral leader of the world church was “seriously jeopardized.”

Badi said, “What the English bishops recommend is unfaithfulness to God, who spoke through His written word.” He accused them of “rewriting the law of God.”

A spokesman said Welby was looking forward to “spend time with Archbishop Badi” and other members of the church to hear “their experience of terrible suffering in the country.”

The Anglican Church has about 80 million followers worldwide, with much of its growth in sub-Saharan Africa as communities shrink in the west. The Global Southern Fellowship of Anglican Churches, a conservative group that rejects any change in biblical teaching on marriage and homosexuality, claims to make up 75% of the total.

Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church, which has 1.3 billion followers worldwide, has seen the biggest growth in Africa in recent years.

An ecumenical visit to South Sudan was due last July but was postponed after doctors advised Francis not to go.

Francis had long wanted to visit this predominantly Christian country, but travel plans were repeatedly delayed due to instability in the region.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan and became independent in 2011 after decades of conflict, but civil war broke out in 2013. Despite a 2018 peace deal between the two main antagonists, violence and hunger still haunt the country.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button