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Director of Anglican Centre in Rome: Momentum for peace needed in South Sudan


Anglican Archbishop Ian Ernest is the acting liaison between Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis. 

He confirmed that the two leaders will visit South Sudan in March 2020 on the condition that the provisional government uniting the two warring sides in the country is set up before then.

According to Archbishop Ian, the trip would be a follow-up to the retreat held for the two political leaders in the Vatican in April, 2019, when Pope Francis kissed their feet and asked them to make peace.

ARCH. IAN ERNEST
Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome
“Two Church leaders are expected now to give a quick momentum for peace that can prevail in this part of the world.”

Pope Francis has been very insistent about his desire to visit South Sudan, originally mentioning it in 2017. He said he would not go without Archbishop Justin Welby.

POPE FRANCIS
Feb. 27, 2017
“Why? Because the Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic bishops came to me. The three of them said to me together: 'Please, come to South Sudan, just one day. But do not come alone, come with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.'”

As approximately 60 percent of the South Sudan population is Christian, split almost evenly between Catholics and other Christian denominations, the presence of both Anglican and Roman Catholic leadership could provide the push necessary to achieve lasting peace in the country.

Archbishop Ian was Anglican Bishop of Mauritius for 18 years. He is happy with his new role and ready to face the challenges that come with it. He says this past month, new initiatives have been launched to further the center's mission of unity.

ARCH. IAN ERNEST
Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome
“It's a calling from God. I never expected to occupy one day such a position. So the challenge is to be able to honor the expectations and the trust placed in me. Already for the past month, initiatives have been launched, conversations have been present, and I can see that the future for the center will be one of continuity, but also of innovative initiatives for the sake of God's community and for the unity of the Church.”

He is also hopeful that, in collaboration with the pope, he will be able to fulfill his important task of fostering strong Anglican-Roman Catholic relations. 

ARCH. IAN ERNEST
Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome
“Meeting the pope is always something that gives us a feeling that we've known each other for a long time. The tenderness of the welcome, the shaking of hands was so firm that you could feel that there was that ability to walk together, to work together.”

In a way, Archbishop Ian has known Pope Francis for a long time. He has encountered him on other occasions, including the pope's visit to Mauritius in 2019 and the 50th anniversary celebration of the Anglican Centre in Rome in 2016.

Claudia Torres