Pope Francis to Mission 21: "Your work is appreciated."

Pope Francis warmly greets Peter Gai, president of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, shaking hands.

Ecumenical handshake: Pope Francis welcomes Peter Gai, president of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and partner of Mission 21, in 2019 to discuss peacebuilding in South Sudan. Photo: F. von Habsburg

"I want you to know that Mission 21's work to build a more just and fraternal world is appreciated..." That's what the letter Mission 21 received from the Vatican in mid-July says. Pope Francis' appreciation is also related to Mission 21's commitment to peacebuilding in South Sudan.

An unusual letter arrived at Jochen Kirsch's home in mid-July. The sender was the Vatican Secretariat of State. In English, it expresses appreciation to the director of Mission 21 for the work of the ministry.

Referring to Mission 21's work "to promote peace and reconciliation, to improve education and health, and to overcome poverty," Pope Francis sends word: "Know that Mission 21's work to build a more just and fraternal world is appreciated and that His Holiness will not forget you and your collaborators in his prayers."

Great joy about appreciation

The letter is signed by Monsignor Roberto Campisi, one of the senior men in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, the main foreign relations office.

"This letter makes me extraordinarily happy!" says Jochen Kirsch. "It is a confirmation of our work, in which we work ecumenically, interreligiously and across cultural boundaries so that people can live together peacefully."

Photo of the July 7, 2023 letter from the Vatican conveying appreciation from Pope Francis.

Peacebuilding in South Sudan

This cooperation also takes place in South Sudan through a particularly committed organization, the South Sudan Federation of Churches (SSCC). The SSCC is a partner organization of Mission 21; in this umbrella organization, the churches work together for reconciliation and an end to violence in the youngest state on earth.

Members are also the Presbyterian Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The SSCC is an encouraging example of lived ecumenism and interreligious cooperation. Jochen Kirsch says: "Especially in view of this cooperation, but also in view of our interreligious activities in other fragile contexts, I am particularly pleased with the Vatican's recognition."

► Mission 21's peacebuilding and reconciliation work in South Sudan

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