VATICAN CITY - A high-powered delegation of the heads of the Catholic and Anglican churches as well as the Church of Scotland will travel to Africa next week in what will be a first of its kind visit centred on politics, human rights, and religion.
The three leaders are Pope Francis, 86, of the Catholic Church, Senior Bishop Justin Welby, 67, the ceremonial head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and retired Reverend Iain Greenshields, 68, who is the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The trip had been scheduled for last year but was delayed because of the pope's health problems.
The first to arrive on the continent will be Pope Francis, making it his fifth trip to Africa and 40th international trip covering 60 countries.
His stay will be six days in two countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan - where he will be joined by the other two church leaders.
The church leaders will only be in the capital cities because of the dire security situation in the DRC and South Sudan.
According to his diary, the pope will land in Kinshasa, Zaire, next Tuesday and on the same day, he will briefly meet DRC President Felix Tshisekedi in what is marked as a "courtesy visit".
Thereafter, he will meet DRC officials, diplomats and civic society stationed in the capital.
The following day, the pope will hold a special mass at Ndolo Airport in the morning.
Later, he will meet victims from the conflict in the eastern part of the DRC.
For two decades, the eastern provinces, especially Kivu, have been the epicentre of the conflict.
Currently, rebels, such as the allegedly Rwandan backed M23 and Congolese supported Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, are the major influencers of instability in that part of the country.
The pope will later engage NGOs and charities dealing with the humanitarian crises in the country.
Before flying to Juba on Friday, he will meet Catholic bishops before a farewell ceremony at Kinshasa International Airport.
On the second part of his Africa tour, the pope would be "making the journey to South Sudan together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland", the Vatican said in a statement.
The three senior church leaders will pay a courtesy visit to Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit.