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Anglican-Roman Catholic summit concludes with a eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral

31 January 2024

Anglican rite brings an end to a week of ecumenical worship and dialogue

IARCCUM/Neil Turner

Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome

Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome

THE Anglican-Roman Catholic summit in Rome has concluded in Canterbury with a eucharist in the cathedral, ending a week of ecumenical worship and dialogue.

The RC Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-Yan, preached at Sunday’s service.

“The twelve apostles and disciples were not called to form camps, working for their own missions, or competing against each other. They were called to become an assembly, a community, a communion, a synodal koinonia, praying and discerning, teaching and serving for the mission of our triune God,” he said.

The eucharist followed an Anglican rite, and the RC bishops were invited to come forward for a blessing; earlier, at a vigil mass in the RC Parish Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, the roles had been reversed.

A total of almost 50 bishops from around the world took part in the summit. They included the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Dr Hosam Naoum (Interview, 18 August 2023), and the RC Archbishop of Honiara, in the Solomon Islands, the Most Revd Christopher Cardone, who celebrated the mass at St Thomas’s.

The summit, “Growing Together”, was organised by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), and supported by the Anglican Communion and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity (News, 26 January).

The Pope joined the Archbishop of Canterbury on Thursday of last week for a joint commissioning of the bishops before they travelled to Canterbury.

At vespers in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome — believed to be the final resting place of St Paul — Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby commissioned the bishops to engage in joint Christian mission and to continue ecumenical dialogue.

Pope Francis referred to Pope Gregory the Great’s instruction to St Augustine, in the sixth century, to travel to England, where he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

The current Pope and Archbishop together invoked a blessing on the bishops, commissioned in RC-Anglican pairs. In 2016, at the first IARCCUM summit, a similar commissioning took place — the first time it had occurred.

IARCCUM/Neil TurnerArchbishop Welby, in the Chair of St Augustine, in Canterbury Cathedral, is flanked by the Roman Catholic and Anglican co-chairs of the summit: Archbishop Donald Bole and Bishop David Hamid

Last week, Pope Francis described the bishops as “co-workers for the Kingdom of God”, and instructed them to “bear witness to the hope that does not deceive and the unity for which our Saviour prayed”.

During the commissioning, Archbishop Welby said: “May your ministry alongside one another as Catholics and Anglicans be for the world a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ for which we pray this day.”

Accompanied by the co-chairs of the summit, the RC Archbishop of Regina, in Canada, the Most Revd Donald Bolen, and the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, Archbishop Welby posed for photos sitting in the Chair of St Augustine in Canterbury Cathedral.

While in Rome, the group also visited the Chair of St Gregory.

As well as visiting holy and historic sites in Rome and Canterbury, the bishops have been engaging in discussion about what they can learn from one another, and how Churches of different denominations can work together.

On Sunday, the last full day of the summit, the bishops worked on a joint statement,  published on Thursday. It is divided into four sections: “witness”, “friendship”, “a synodal path”, and “mission”. It offers glimpses into the bishops’ discussion of climate change, the legacy of colonialisation, safeguarding, and the dangers of “isolation from each other as churches”.

The reflection on synodality begins: “Our friendship tells us a profound truth.” It concludes: “We know from our experience of Christian mission that we are richer when we do together everything we possibly can do together.” 

Also on Sunday, Archbishop Welby met the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II. They had previously spent time together in October, when Archbishop Welby spent several days in Holy Etchmiadzin, the mother see of the Armenian Church, as part of an ecumenical trip to the South Caucasus (News, 13 October).

IARCCUM/Neil TurnerPope Francis and Archbishop Welby at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome

On Sunday, they discussed the continuing challenges faced by refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, some of whom Archbishop Welby met in the course of his visit (News, 6 October 2023).

Norwich gathering. The Rome-Canterbury summit was followed by a two-day gathering in Norwich of bishops from the C of E and the RC Church in England and Wales. About 40 are attending the biannual convocation, which, like the IARCCUM meeting, comprises worship and discussion.

The group assembled on Tuesday, visiting the city’s Anglican and RC cathedrals and the Julian Shrine, and is set to conclude on Wednesday after a day of talks.

Archbishop Welby and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, were among the bishops present on Tuesday.

The Eastern Daily Press reported the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, as saying: “The warmth of relationships as we get together is extraordinary. There are great bonds of friendship between us.”

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