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Media briefing: South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

[Episcopal News Service]  South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki reinforced his dedication to continuing partnership between his government and the Anglican Church during a March 9 meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa. An audio stream of the media briefing is available here. A transcript follows.

President Thabo Mbeki

Let me first of all say that I am very glad indeed that the Archbishop of Canterbury is here and that I was able to meet him. I learned for the first time today that he has known the director general of the president, Frank Chikane, for quite a number of years. They met in Pietermaritzburg during the days of struggle. So he's a comrade to us.

So I was very, very glad that we were able to meet and I think everybody knows the role of the Anglican Church, both domestically and in the rest of the world in terms of the struggle against apartheid. So that relationship, we will continue to maintain it to address the new challenges of the day.

That the Archbishop is in the country and that we're able to meet helps us to reinforce the message that the common work is not yet done. And because there are these common challenges of peace, of development in this country, on the continent, of poverty and so on, and questions of morality, of the soul. We work very closely all the time with the Archbishop of Cape Town on all of these questions. So I am saying that I am really very, very glad that the Archbishop of Canterbury came, the head of the Anglican community globally, in reality, to reinforce this partnership which is indeed very, very long-standing.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

Thank you Mr. President. I feel very greatly honored that we have been given time this morning for our discussion and I want to say thank you very much Mr. President for the generosity that you've shown in welcoming us.

I am here in South Africa for a conference in Boksburg about the church's involvement in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and so this morning was a very special opportunity to discuss with the president some of the ways in which the church here in South Africa is contributing, especially at the grass roots level to the meeting of those goals and how more effective partnership between the churches and government here could help take forward those crucial goals for the good, not only of this country, but of the whole continent.

We've had a wide-ranging and, for me, very, very instructive and encouraging discussion and, as the president has said, I feel that South Africa has a very special place in my heart as in the hearts of many people in the Anglican Church. We look back to our visit some years ago, when my wife and myself did some work for the church here, as a crucial time for us, and it has been wonderful to be back in the country to see the changes, see the challenges, to pick up some old friendships and to make some new ones. So once again, Mr. President, thank you very, very much for your welcome.