Archbishop's visit to Angola

Archbishop of Canterbury visits Angola: 12 March 2007

2000 Greet the Archbishop of Canterbury in Angola

Clergy from this war-torn nation plead for “concrete ways” to defend the poor

A weekend of emotion, praise, prayer and promises, marked the visit to Angola of the Most Revd Rowan Williams and his delegation. A sports stadium in the capital city of Luanda was overflowing with people coming to join in a special Eucharist to mark the first ever visit of an Archbishop of Canterbury to Angola, on Sunday, 11 March, 2007. However, the praise was mixed with sadness for the “reality” of the situation, while local Christians cheered and applauded as their guest made his way into the stadium styled “cathedral”.

Rowan Williams in Angola
Photo Credit: ACNS Rosenthal

In his sermon, which was translated into Portuguese, Archbishop Williams said, “my prayer for this country and for the churches here is this; may the Christians of this land hear day by day the word of God that is the word of hope. May they hear the word of the God 'I am what I choose to be', I do what I have decided to do. The word of the God who has said 'I have decided to be with you and nothing will change that'. And because of that may the Christians of this country be courageous day by day. May they have the courage to do what is in front of them, even if it seems small, it will be great in God's eyes. And as Christians grow in that confidence, that honesty and that courage, they will build a community and a nation that is confident and honest, a nation which will give glory to God. May God give us all in this country and across the world, that courage and that faith so that we may work together to do away with the violence and the terror the disease and poverty that make us less than human.”

He said, “An ancient Christian writer once said that the glory of God is a human being full of life, so may the glory of God be seen in this country, as human beings become full of life, free from fear and poverty.”

Rowan Williams in Angola
Photo Credit: ACNS Rosenthal

Bands, drummers and dancers, young and old, ecumenical clergy and choirs, and the many Anglican congregations in the Diocese of Angola joined in to nearly three hour service and heard the Most Revd Rowan Williams, robed in his “African” cope and mitre given by the church in Ghana, praise the people of Angola for “faithfulness to the gospel” in the aftermath of terror, ruin and war. The banners around the arena read “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” while others named parishes St John Baptist, Christ the King, St Mary, St Stephen and a host of others, all with greetings to the archbishop.

The young and growing diocese is under the pastoral care of its first bishop, the Rt Revd André Soares and his small but lively staff. The archbishop was greeted officially with speeches from the youth of the diocese, the Mothers' Union and from the bishop. The diocese here has a strong link with the Diocese of London (England).

Sunday afternoon the Archbishop and Bishop Soares met with local ecumenical Protestant leaders in the Council of Christian Churches in Angola (CICA), a group that includes 16 denominations, from the United Methodists to the Evangelical Baptist Church, as well as the Church of the Twelve Apostles to the Evangelical Mennonite Brothers. The church leaders shared their ministry priorities with Archbishop Williams with the fight against malaria as a number one item. With the archbishop is the Revd David Peck who heads the Anglican Communion development programme at Lambeth Palace whose task is to follow through on identified ministries and projects of the local Anglican diocese.

The Roman Catholic Papal Nuncio and the Archbishop of Angola joined the Archbishop and his delegation for dinner on Saturday as guest of HE Mrs Cynthia Efird, USA Ambassador and a worshipper at the local church of Christ the King. She and her husband are active Anglicans from St Paul's Episcopal Church, K Street, Washington, DC. Sunday evening the delegation met with John Yale of World Vision and Rosario Advirta of Christian Aid. Many NGO official and clergy attended the Sunday worship in Luanda.

Rowan Williams in Angola
Photo Credit: ACNS Rosenthal

On Saturday a small turbo prop flight was the mode of travel for the itinerary of the delegation as they visited Uige (pronounced weeje), where the main Anglican work and mission has been the strongest. A Eucharist attended by over 1000 included 40 candidates for the sacrament of confirmation administered by the Archbishop. Archbishop Williams also travelled over rural roads to reach a site for a proposed school where he joined in laying the foundation stone, a task he would later enjoy again later back in Luanda at St Stephen's Church and school, near the airport.

A dramatic and moving visit to the church of All Martyrs in Uige found the Archbishop remembering the life and witness the church's pastor who was killed in 1961.

Bishop Soares, in his official welcome speech on Sunday, praised the Archbishop for “your determination, courage and pastoral care in making sure you visited this little flock”. The bishop also thanked Archbishop Williams for his willingness to “struggle to hold the Anglican Communion together as a visible sign of God's love to his people.” The bishop noted that the Archbishop's visit comes just as Angola begins its celebration of 5 years of peace “after a long and bitter time of war”. The bishop reminded the assembly that Angolans had suffered for 41 years including the War of Independence and the Civil War. The bishop said, “As a result of this, the country has lost its best sons, thousands were left without limbs, millions driven from their homes…we are left with a a nation disfigured by poverty and misery.”

Bishop Soares pleaded for the Anglican Communion to be an advocate for the people and for “solidarity” so the church can be “prophetic in its witness to society defending the cause of the poor in concrete ways”.

The pastoral visits continues through Tuesday.

Jim Rosenthal is the director of communications for the Anglican Communion and is with the Archbishop and Marie Papworth from the Lambeth Press and Fiona Millican, Anglican Communion Liaison Officer at Lambeth Palace.

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