Pope Encourages Dialogue When Receiving Anglican Pilgrims

On 1,400th Anniversary of Ordination of St. Justus as Bishop of Rochester

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II promoted the path to unity between Anglicans and Catholics, when he received some 80 pilgrims of the Anglican diocese of Rochester.

The purpose of the Anglican pilgrimage is to celebrate the 1,400th anniversary of the ordination of St. Justus, first bishop of the diocese in Britain, and fourth bishop of Canterbury.

«You are following in the footsteps of St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Justus, who were sent by my great predecessor St. Gregory to preach the Gospel in your country,» the Pope told his guests in English.

«May your journey be an occasion of spiritual enrichment and an encouragement to persevere on the path towards full communion. I accompany you with my prayers and my blessing,» he said.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes St. Justus as the fourth archbishop of Canterbury, and dates his death to 627. Details of his life come almost entirely from Venerable Bede’s «Historia Ecclesiastica,» and the additions of medieval writers, such as William of Malmesbury or Elmham.

Justus was one of the second band of missionaries sent by St. Gregory the Great. It was a company that arrived in 601 to reinforce St. Augustine and that brought the relics, books, sacred vessels and other gifts sent by the Pope. It is not certain whether he was a secular priest or a monk. Bede is silent on the point, and later monastic writers from Canterbury claim him as one of their own order.

In 604 he was consecrated by St. Augustine as first bishop of Rochester, on which occasion King Ethelbert bestowed on the new see, by charter, a territory called Priestfield and other lands. Other charters in which his name occurs are of dubious authenticity.

After the death of Augustine, Justus joined with the new archbishop, St. Laurence, and with Mellitus of London in addressing letters to the recalcitrant British bishops, but without effect.

During the heathen reaction that followed the death of Ethelbert, Justus was expelled from his see and took refuge in Gaul for a year, after which he was recalled by Eadbald who had been converted by St. Laurence.

On the death of St. Mellitus (April 24, 624) who had succeeded St. Laurence as archbishop, St. Justus was elected to the vacant primacy. The letter which Pope Boniface addressed to him when sending him the pallium is preserved by Venerable Bede.

He was already an old man, and little is recorded of his pontificate except that he consecrated Romanus as bishop of Rochester and St. Paulinus as bishop for the North.

His anniversary was kept at Canterbury on Nov. 10, but there is uncertainty as to the year of his death, though 627, the commonly received date, would appear to be correct, especially as it fits in with the period of three years usually assigned by the chroniclers to his archiepiscopate.

He was buried with his predecessors at St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, and is commemorated in the English supplement to the missal and breviary on Nov. 10.

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