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Friendship can break down barriers between denominations and faiths, says Welby  

20 November 2020


The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury meet at the Vatican in 2017

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury meet at the Vatican in 2017

THE barriers and frontiers between different denominations and faiths can be broken down by friendship, the Archbishop of Canterbury has told Vatican News.

Archbishop Welby said in the interview, published on Tuesday, that Christians, including Anglicans, sometimes believed “that their Church is the only Christian body out there or, if they do acknowledge the presence of other Christians, they consider that they are generally wrong”.

He continued: “When we look out at brother and sister Christians from whom we are separated by historical accident or doctrinal questions, we see true people of Christ, fellow pilgrims on the way and people, loved by God and served by God, from whom we can learn.”

The ecumenical movement had, he said, “chipped away slowly” at “frontiers” between denominations. There had been occasional great steps forward, such as the 1999 Roman Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith. In 2017, on the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, Archbishop Welby, on behalf of the Anglican Communion, formally affirmed the concord (News, 3 November 2017).

The Archbishop continued: “One of the real and tangible benefits of the ecumenical movement is that, at an individual level, relationships of trust and friendship have been built up across denominational divides — barriers have been broken down by friendship (or ‘fraternity’).”

Archbishop Welby praised the papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti: On fraternity and social friendship (News, 9 October), describing it as “a systematic, ambitious, and brave vision for a better future world”, and mentioned that he had collaborated on a preface to a French publication of the encyclical with his spiritual director, a Roman Catholic.

In it, Pope Francis describes the inspiration that he draws from diverse religious figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Welby spoke of the Chemin Neuf Community at Lambeth Palace, which has comprised Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans, and of his RC spiritual director. “In all these relationships, the other is not a stranger, but a fellow pilgrim; a friend; a sister or brother.”

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