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Welby speaks to Pope of ‘self-giving love’

21 June 2013


First meeting: Pope Francis shares a joke at a private audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury; his wife, Caroline; and the Archbishop's Representative to the Holy See, the Most Revd David Moxon, at the Vatican on Friday

First meeting: Pope Francis shares a joke at a private audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury; his wife, Caroline; and the Archbishop's Represen...

OVERCOMING divisions between Anglicans and Roman Catholics will require a "self-giving love", characterised by "hospitality and love for the poor", the Archbishop of Canterbury said last Friday, at his first meeting with Pope Francis.

Archbishop Welby, accompanied by his wife, Caroline, and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, met Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace last Friday morning, after meeting the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch.

Archbishop Welby and the Pope had a private conversation, after which they gave public addresses, and attended a service of midday prayer together.

The Archbishop, in keeping with custom, wore the episcopal ring given to Archbishop Michael Ramsey by Pope Paul VI in 1966. The ring is "a symbol of fraternal love and efforts towards reconciliation" between the two Churches, Lambeth Palace said.

The Archbishop had not attended the Pope's inauguration ( News, 22 March) because it coincided with the prayer pilgrimage leading up to his own enthronement ( News, 22 March, 28 March)

In his address after their meeting, Archbishop Welby acknowledged that dialogue between the Anglican and RC Churches had been "a testing journey". He went on to quote Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi: "But our 'goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey' . . . and we can trust in the prayer of Christ, ut omnes unum sint (John 17.21).

"A firm foundation of friendship will enable us to be hopeful in speaking to one another about those differences, to bear one another's burdens, and to be open to sharing the discernment of a way forward that is faithful to the mind of Christ pressed upon us as disciples.

"That way forward must reflect the self-giving love of Christ, our bearing of his Cross, and our dying to ourselves so as to live with Christ, which will show itself in hospitality and love for the poor. We must love those who seek to oppose us, and love above all those tossed aside - even whole nations - by the present crises around the world."

Archbishop Welby said that he prayed "that the nearness of our two inaugurations may serve the reconciliation of the world and the Church . . . It is only as the world sees Christians growing visibly in unity that it will accept through us the divine message of peace and reconciliation."

Pope Francis told Archbishop Welby: "Since we began our respective ministries within days of each other, I think we will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer."

He acknowledged that relations between the two Churches had, historically, been "not without pain", but said that, in recent decades, there had been "a journey of rapprochement and fraternity", including the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission ( News, 31 May), and "the growth of cordial relations at every level". Such "bonds of friendship" had "enabled us to remain on course even when difficulties have arisen in our theological dialogue".

The Pope expressed gratitude for the Church of England's "sincere efforts" to understand the reasons that had led Pope Benedict XVI to set up the Ordinariate (News, 18 March 2011). "I am sure this will enable the spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral traditions that form the Anglican patrimony to be better known and appreciated in the Catholic world."

The Churches' efforts "to grow towards unity" could be "concretely expressed in our co-operation in various areas of daily life", Pope Francis said. These included "the institution of the family built on marriage", which, the Pope noted, Archbishop Welby had "had occasion to recall recently" - an apparent reference to his House of Lords speech opposing gay marriage ( News, 7 June).

The Pope went on: "Then there is the effort to achieve greater social justice, to build an economic system that is at the service of man and promotes the common good. Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems, at times, to treat people as mere consumers."

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