Pope, Anglican, Presbyterian Leaders Denounce Anti-Gay Laws

Pope Francis, the head of the Anglican Communion and top Presbyterian minister together denounced the criminalization of homosexuality on Sunday and said gay people should be welcomed by their churches.

The three Christian leaders spoke out on LGBTQ rights during an unprecedented joint airborne news conference returning home from South Sudan, where they took part in a three-day ecumenical pilgrimage to try to nudge the young country’s peace process forward.

They were asked about Francis’ recent comments to The Associated Press, in which he declared that laws that criminalize gay people were “unjust” and that “being homosexual is not a crime.”

South Sudan is one of 67 countries that criminalizes homosexuality, 11 of them with the death penalty. LGBTQ advocates say even where such laws are not applied, they contribute to a climate of harassment, discrimination and violence.

Francis referred his Jan. 24 comments to the AP and repeated that such laws are “unjust.” He also repeated previous comments that parents should never throw their gay children out of the house.

“To condemn someone like this is a sin,” he said. “Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice.”

“People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God Loves them. God accompanies them,” he added.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recalled that LGBTQ rights were very much on the current agenda of the Church of England, and said he would quote the pope’s own words when the issue is discussed at the church’s upcoming General Synod.

“I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said,” Welby said.

Recently, the Church of England decided to allow blessings for same-sex civil marriages but said same-sex couples could not marry in its churches. The Vatican forbids both gay marriage and blessings for same-sex unions.

Welby told reporters that the issue of criminalization had been taken up at two previous Lambeth Conferences of the broader Anglican Communion, which includes churches in Africa and the Middle East where such anti-gay laws are most common and often enjoy support by conservative bishops.

The broader Lambeth Conference has come out twice opposing criminalization, “But it has not really changed many people’s minds,” Welby said.

The Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, the Presbyterian moderator of the Church of Scotland who also participated in the pilgrimage and news conference, offered an observation.

“There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away,” he said. “There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets.

“And as Christians, that is the only expression that we can possibly give to any human being, in any circumstance.”

The Church of Scotland allows same-sex marriages. Catholic teaching holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

Source: Voice of America


Pope Francis appealed Sunday to the people of South Sudan to lay down their “weapons of hatred” at an open-air mass on the final day of his pilgrimage to a country blighted by violence and poverty.

Large crowds of ecstatic worshippers streamed into the John Garang Mausoleum in the capital Juba to see the 86-year-old pontiff, who has made peace and reconciliation the theme of his three-day trip to the world’s newest nation.

“Let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge… Let us overcome the dislikes and aversions that over time have become chronic and risk pitting tribes and ethnic groups against one another,” Francis said in his homily.

He voiced hope that the people of South Sudan, a country that has been at war for about half its young life, would “build a reconciled future”.

People waved national flags and sang “Welcome holy father to South Sudan” as the Argentine pontiff moved through the crowds in his popemobile before delivering the mass to an audience local authorities put at around 70,000.

Francis later flew out of Juba for Rome. He is due to hold a press conference on board his plane along with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who joined him on the trip.

It was his first papal visit to the largely Christian country since it achieved independence from mainly Muslim Sudan in 2011 after a long and bloody civil war.

Despite the initial revelry in 2011, South Sudan was at war with itself just two years later in a conflict that killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced four million.

A peace deal was signed in 2018 between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar but many of its conditions remain unmet and violence continues to roil the country.

The wheelchair-bound pontiff, who himself tried to broker peace during the civil war, received a rapturous welcome throughout his visit.

“I came to see the pope bring change to the country. For many years we’ve been at war, but we need peace. We want the pope to pray for us,” said James Agiu, 24.

He was among the many who stayed overnight to join the mass at the John Garang mausoleum — built in honour of South Sudan’s rebel hero who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2005.

On Saturday, Francis met victims of the civil war, who were brought to Juba from various camps, and urged the government to resume the peace process and restore “dignity” to those affected by conflict.

With 2.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs), and another two million outside the country, South Sudan is witness to the worst refugee crisis in Africa.

“I have been suffering in my life. That is why I’m here, so the pope can bless me and my family,” 32-year-old Josephine James told AFP at Sunday’s mass.

“Ever since he arrived, people have been happy. I am very happy.”

The papal visit has been closely followed in the devoutly Christian country of 12 million people, where church leaders played a key role in protecting civilians during times of conflict.

Source: National News Agency

‘Landmark’ Israel visit to Sudan sets stage for peace agreement

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with the head of the Sovereignty Council and Sudan’s Armed Forces commander Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan on Thursday, stating that the visit was “a historic and strategic peace agreement with an Arab Muslim country”, upon his return from Khartoum.

Cohen’s visit set the stage for a peace agreement between Israel and Sudan and is contingent on the transfer of power in Sudan to a civilian government. For many in Israel, the signing is seen as enhancement to their regional stability and will contribute to the national security of the State of Israel.

The BBC reported that the landmark peace signing will be held in Washington in the coming months. The Israeli minister said the agreement’s contents was finalised during his one-day visit.

Israeli researcher and journalist Edy Cohen told Radio Dabanga that the visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister to Khartoum is a step forward and “that the train of normalisation is moving quickly”.

He also highlighted the Chadian President Mohamed Idris Deby’s recent visit to Israel, which was key in accelerating and contributing to Sudan’s diplomatic normalisation with Israel.

According to the Israeli analyst, “Washington pressured Tel Aviv for the sake of normalisation with N’Djamena and Khartoum”. There have been several reports since the 2021 coup d’état about visits by Israeli delegations to Sudan at the request of the United States, in an attempt to resolve the political crisis.

Cohen went on to state that despite internal problems and political strife within Israel, “an agreement has been reached between the Chadian President and the President of the Sovereignty Council to sign the cooperation soon”.

The Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council and commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo said in a press statement on Thursday that news circulating about his meeting with the Israeli delegation was incorrect.

He stated that he had “no knowledge of the visit of the Israeli delegation” and did not meet any of them.


Political analyst Azza Mustafa said that the meeting on Thursday comes as a continuation of previous steps for normalisation with Israel.

“This visit of the Israeli delegation came in anticipation of the formation of a civilian government in Sudan – though it will be civilians that may oppose the normalisation with Tel Aviv,” she told Radio Dabanga.

Political parties and civil society organisations in Sudan condemned the visit of the Israeli FA Minister to Khartoum.

The Sudanese Journalists Syndicate said in a statement on Friday it rejects a normalisation process led by putschists without regard for the opinions of the Sudanese people.

They stated that this was “a dangerous development for Sudan”, and an “attempt to take advantage of the current vacuum in the country”.

The lawyers questioned the statements made by El Burhan in early July last year, in which he pledged to return to the barracks after an agreement on the formation of a civilian government and to leave the military establishment out of politics.

Sudan’s Popular Congress Party reacted by saying that “the purpose of the desperate and frantic normalisation attempt is for Sudan to remain under military rule with the support of the Israeli enemy”.

Source: Radio Dabanga

Wrapping South Sudan Trip, Pope Calls for Forgiveness, Reconciliation

Pope Francis flew back to Rome on Sunday after a three-day tour of South Sudan. The pope concluded his visit with a Mass before an estimated 100,000 people at the John Garang Mausoleum, where he reiterated a message of peace for the country’s faithful.

“Jesus knows your anguish and the hope you bear in your hearts, the joys and struggles that mark your lives, the darkness that assails you and the faith that, like a song in the night, you raise to heaven.”

This was Pope Francis’s message during a Mass for South Sudan’s faithful in the nation’s capital of Juba Sunday morning. It was the final day of his African pilgrimage of peace.

The pope’s homily wove around the themes of mutual forgiveness for past wrongs and reconciliation.

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu says the pope’s message is timely and one the nation needs to hear. South Sudan has endured nearly a decade of civil war.

“It is discouraging that the peace process has moved forward so slowly, war has brought the indiscriminate destruction of human lives … we have been experiencing looting, raping, economic distortion and the displacement of countless people,” Ameyu said.

The pope asked worshippers to shun the “blind fury of violence.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Francis said that “today, I’d like to thank you because you are the salt of the Earth in this country. Yet, when you consider its many wounds the violence that increases the venom of hearted and injustice that causes misery and poverty, you may feel small and powerless at times when violence increases the venom of hatred, and injustice causes misery and poverty.”

During an earlier stop Saturday at Juba’s Freedom Hall, Pope Francis met with internally displaced people and listened to the testimonies of children, including that of 16-year-old Joseph.

“We have been affected by floods since 2020; many people have lost their livestock and crops,” said Joseph. “We urge the leaders to bring us peace and prosperity continue to pray for lasting peace in South Sudan.”

Johnson Juma Alex, another teenager at the IDP camp from Malakal said this to the pope:

“Peace is good, problems are not,” said Alex. “We want peace so that people can go back to their homes; there is no space to play football. I want to have a good future where there is peace… We thank the U.N. because they gave us peace and they gave us protection.”

The pope discussed his desire for a resumption of the peace process for South Sudan immediately.

Again, speaking through an interpreter, he said:

“This is my appeal to end all conflict and resume [the] peace process in a serious way and people can return to their homes and live in dignity. There is no room for delay.”

The pope was joined on his ecumenical peace mission by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland, representing the Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian religions that make up most of the population in South Sudan.

Source: Voice of America

Another Sudanese general questions the political framework agreement

A Sudanese army general on Sunday cast doubt on the capacity of the framework agreement to end the political crisis, saying the signatories did not constitute a sufficient majority to solve the country’s problems.

In a speech in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan state, General Shams al-Din Kabbashi, a member of the Sovereign Council, vilified the framework agreement signed on December 5, 2022, which provides to restore a transitional civilian government.

He said that the signatories to the framework agreement from the political forces “frankly” do not constitute a sufficient majority to solve the political crisis in Sudan.

Source: Sudan Tribune

South Sudan, Uganda to expand existing bilateral ties

South Sudan and neighbouring Uganda have agreed to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries.

This was reached during a meeting on Saturday between President Salva Kiir and Uganda’s Vice President Jessica Alupo in the capital, Juba.

South Sudan’s Minister of Presidential Affairs, Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the two leaders discussed how the existing bilateral ties can be expanded.

For her part, Alupo applauded President Kiir for hosting the ecumenical peace pilgrimage and inviting his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.

The Vice President, who represented Museveni, said Uganda will continue supporting the implementation of the peace agreement in South Sudan.

On Friday last week, Pope Francis called on South Sudanese political leaders to end the bloodshed in the country and embrace peace.

The Pope made the call following a closed-door meeting with Kiir in the capital, Juba.

“No more bloodshed, no more conflict, no more violence and mutual recriminations about who is responsible for it, no more leaving your people athirst for peace,” he remarked on Friday.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby called on political and church leaders to be generous and preach God’s words to the people they lead.

“We need leaders who care about the values by which our country lives and who care about the conditions in which people live and to act unto their faith in work among the most vulnerable and marginalized,” he said.

South Sudan broke away from neighbouring Sudan in 2011, but plunged into civil war in 2013 with ethnic groups turning on each other. Despite a 2018 peace deal between the two main antagonists, spells of inter-ethnic fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians.

Source: Sudan Tribune