Pope Francis met today with His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Welby was accompanied by his wife, Caroline, as well as Archbishop David Moxon, his official representative in Rome, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.
Pope Francis, who began his Petrine ministry shortly before Archbishop Welby’s enthronement, expressed his gratitude to the Anglican prelate for his prayers.
“I know that during Your Grace’s installation in Canterbury Cathedral you remembered in prayer the new Bishop of Rome,” the Pope said. “I am deeply grateful to you – and 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.”
While acknowledging that the relationship between the Church of England and the Catholic Church has not always been “without pain”, the Holy Father also stated that in recent decades, both Churches have embarked on a “journey of rapprochement and fraternity.” The Pope also welcomed Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, whose presence he noted, shows the firm bonds of friendship between the Churches.
“These firm bonds of friendship have enabled us to remain on course even when difficulties have arisen in our theological dialogue that were greater than we could have foreseen at the start of our journey,” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father also thanked the head of the Anglican Communion as well as the Church of England for their understanding in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s efforts in providing a canonical structure in admitting Anglican clergy into the Catholic Church. “I am sure,” the Pope said, “this will enable the spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions that form the Anglican patrimony to be better known and appreciated in the Catholic world.”
Pope Francis also emphasized the importance of the meeting with Archbishop Welby, saying that it is reminder that unity among Christians in not a question of practically, but the very will of God himself “who made us his brothers and sisters, children of the One Father.”
Calling attention to the social issues in today’s world, the Holy Father recognized Archbishop Welby’s commitment to peace among nations, citing in particular the joint call for peace in Syria by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.
Pope Francis concluded his address by encouraging the “path towards unity, fraternally united in charity and with Jesus Christ as our constant point of reference.
A Reflection of the Self-Giving Love of Christ
For his part, Archbishop Welby recalled the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII where his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsay regarded him as a “a man who touches human hearts with charity.”
The Anglican Archbishop stated that in coming to the Vatican he was “coming to a place where I can feel myself at home.”
“Your Holiness, we are called by the Holy Spirit of God, through our fraternal love, to continue the work that has been the precious gift to popes and archbishops of Canterbury for these past fifty years, and of which this famous ring is the enduring token,” Archbishop Welby said. “I pray that the nearness of our two inaugurations may serve the reconciliation of the world and the Church.”
“As you have stressed, we must promote the fruits of our dialogue; and, with our fellow bishops, we must give expression to our unity in faith through prayer and evangelisation. 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.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury echoed the words of Pope Francis, saying that the path if dialogue between the two Churches “must reflect the self-giving love of Christ, our bearing of his Cross, and our dying to ourselves.”
Archbishop Welby also called to mind those who suffer in the world from violence, oppression and war, emphasizing that “if we are not their advocates in the name of Christ, who will be?”
Concluding his address, the Archbishop assured the Holy Father of the “love, respect and prayers of the bishops, clergy and people of the Anglican Communion.”
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For the full text of Pope Francis’ address, go to:
For the full text of Archbishop Welby’s address, go to: