Sudan has become the 39th Province of the Anglican Communion, with an inauguration at the All Saints Cathedral in the capital, Khartoum.

The inauguration was crowned with a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said, the decision to let Sudan become the newest autonomous member of the Anglican family, was turning a “new beginning” for Christians in that country.

The members of the Sudanese Church said the move would allow them to become more visible and deal directly with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Before the creation of the latest province, Sudanese Anglicans were under the jurisdiction of the Church in South Sudan where the majority of the four-and-half-million members of the Episcopal Church are based.

After the country became independent from Sudan in 2011, the Anglican Church of Sudan became the Anglican Church of South Sudan and Sudan.

The decision to have a separate communion in the North was taken last year after it became clear that the Primate of South Sudan, the Most Reverend Daniel Deng, was finding it difficult to administer to the needs of members in the North, because of the strained relationship between Sudan and South Sudan since the latter’s independence six year ago.

“After the independence of South Sudan, it was problematic for him to come to Khartoum to undertake his role as Primate,” said Bishop Anthony Poggo, who was appointed last October as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser for Anglican Communion Affairs.

“It is easier and better for everything to be run by the new Primate of Sudan — which is one of the reasons the new Province has been set up,” he said.

“There will be challenges, but it will be more easily solved by the Sudanese people rather than a Primate who is based in Juba.”

The new Archbishop of Sudan, Ezekiel Kondo, will administer to about one million Anglicans in his province.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit was not limited to meeting members of the Anglican Communion in Sudan, as he also met President Omar al-Bashir and government officials to discuss issues relating to religious co-existence and humanitarian assistance for refugees in the region.

The Governor of Khartoum, Abdel Rahim Hussein, said that Sudan had no incidents of conflict between Muslims and Christians, adding that the Archbishop’s visit “comes within the framework of supporting the well-established ties between Muslims and Christians” in the country.

The Archbishop welcomed the religious co-existence among Sudanese, noting that the government had clear plans to make that work.

“My prayer for Sudan is that there will be freedom continually so that Christians may live confidently, blessing their country,” he said.

“The more they are free, the more they will be a blessing to Sudan.”

He also praised the Sudanese government for welcoming refugees from the conflict in South Sudan, saying Khartoum had set an example for the world by hosting refugees and sharing its little resources with them.

The Archbishop said, he supported the lifting in full of US sanctions against Sudan and later visited camps in Northern Uganda where over 900,000 South Sudanese refugees are living.

GNA