The spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has embarked on a weeklong pastoral visit to Central Africa during which he is hoping to meet Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Dr. Rowan Williams arrived in Malawi this week, where he was greeted by Archbishop Albert Chama and Bishop James Tengatenga.
His visit coincides with a service of celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of the Anglican Church in Malawi. His first stop in the country was the shrine of Bishop Charles Mackenzie in St Paul’s Cathedral, Blantyre. Mackenzie was the first missionary bishop in Nyasaland – today’s Malawi.
Speaking to the media shortly after his arrival, Williams said: “The Church today in this country still plays a deeply significant part in community development, in education, in grassroots agricultural development, in the empowerment of women and young people – I am here to give thanks to God, with you, for all that work.
“I am here to pray with you for a Church that will continue responding to God’s call in that way in the future, and to learn from what you do as I go around and visit various projects in different parts of the country.”
During his stay in Malawi, the Archbishop will visit several Church initiatives set up to help vulnerable groups in local communities, including a literacy circle and sustainable farming initiatives run by the Mothers’ Union.
On Sunday, the Archbishop will head to Zimbabwe where he will preach at a Eucharist at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
The Archbishop has requested a meeting with President Robert Mugabe, but is still waiting for confirmation from Mugabe’s office.
Although the Archbishop’s spokesman was unable to confirm what the two leaders would discuss if the meeting goes ahead, it is likely that the harassment of Anglican churches in Zimbabwe will arise.
Anglican churches have fallen victim to a campaign of intimidation at the hands of Zimbabwean authorities, with services being disrupted and priests forced off church property.
It is believed that the authorities are harassing the churches at the behest of Dr Nolbert Kunonga, the excommunicated Bishop of Harare and close ally of Mugabe.
The Archbishop plans to visit grassroots Church projects that are continuing to care for orphans and HIV sufferers in spite of the difficulties.
His visit to Central Africa will draw to a close in the Zambian city of Kitwe, where Williams will preach at an outdoor Eucharist in the city stadium.
He is due to return to the U.K. on October 13.