The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the Episcopal Church of Sudan as the 39th province of the Anglican Communion and invested the Most Rev. Ezekiel Kondo as its archbishop.

Archbishop Justin Welby presided at the July 30 ceremony and presented Archbishop Ezekiel, Bishop of Khartoum, with a primatial cross. He said the birth of a new province was a “rare and precious” event.

“To be invited here to preach this morning is a privilege of which I could never have dreamed,” he said. “I thank the Province of Sudan for the honor of being here at your birth. Like all births, it comes with responsibility. It is for the Christians to make this province work and for those outside to serve, pray, and to love this new province.”

Sudan is predominantly Muslim but has around one million Christians. Archbishop Justin spoke of seeing Christians and Muslims “co-existing powerfully and effectively” when he had visited the southern Diocese of Kadugli on Saturday. Such tolerant coexistence requires freedom, he said.

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“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.”

“No government anywhere in the world need fear Christians,” he added.

Sudan has been an internal province within the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, which will now be known as the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. Archbishop Welby praised Archbishop Daniel Deng of the South Sudan province for his wisdom and leadership in preparing for the inauguration: “He is the midwife of this province who has encouraged it and strengthened it to the point we have now reached.”

South Sudan is the first new province since 1998, when the Anglican Communion welcomed Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, praised Sudanese Christians.

“Your passion for Christ, for mission, and for peace, is most humbling,” he said. “The people of Sudan have suffered greatly from the effects of bitter conflict, and terrible poverty. It is in this climate that you have responded to the call to build his Church. Our message to you is that you are not alone. You are a precious part of a special family. Your brothers and sisters across the Communion will be praying for you today, and in the future as you grow in the love of Christ. I look forward to the valued contribution you will make to this special family.”

Adapted from ACNS

Related: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s website offers the text of the sermon he preached.