Pope’s Q & A at Anglican All Saints Church

During Visit to Italy’s Largest Anglican Congregation, Francis Answers 3 Questions

Evensong marking the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Image: Westminster-Abbey.org© (image found on the website of the Ambassador's blog)

 Marking the first Pope to enter inside an Anglican church in his own diocese as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis’ visit Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, to the Church of England chaplaincy of All Saints in Rome, Italy’s largest Anglican congregation, was historic. Below is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s question and answer session during the visit:
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Questions and Answers

Question: During our liturgies, many people enter our church and marvel because “in fact, it seems like a Catholic church!” Many Catholics have heard talk of King Henry VIII, but they are ignorant of the Anglican traditions and of the ecumenical progress of this half-century. What would you like to say to them about the relation between Catholics and Anglicans today?

The Pope’s Answer: It’s true, the relation between Catholics and Anglicans is good today; we love one another as brothers! It’s true that in history there are awful things everywhere, and to “tear away a piece” of history and to carry it as if it were an “icon” of [our] relations isn’t right. A historical event should be read in the hermeneutics of that moment, not with another hermeneutic. And relations today are good, I said. And they have gone beyond, since the visit of the Primate Michael Ramsey, and even more so . . .  But also in the Saints, we have a common tradition of Saints that your parish priest wished to stress. And the two Churches have never, never reneged the Saints, Christians who lived the Christian witness to that point. And this is important. But there were also relations of brotherhood in bad times, in difficult times, where the political, economic and religious power was so mixed, where there was that rule “cuius regio eius religio,” but even at that time there were some relations.

I met an old, an elderly Jesuit in Argentina. I was young, he was elderly, Father Guillermo Furlong Cardiff, born in the city of Rosario, of an English family, and as a boy he was an altar server – he was Catholic, of a Catholic English family – he was an altar server at Rosario in the funeral of Queen Victoria, in the Anglican Church. There was this relation also at that time. And the relations between Catholics and Anglicans are relations – I don’t know if historically one can say this, but it is a figure that will help us to think – two steps forward, half a step back, two steps forward, half a step back . . . It’s like that. They are humans, and we must continue <doing> this.

There is something else that has kept the connection strong between our religious traditions: the monks, the monasteries. And the monks, be they Catholic or Anglican, are a great spiritual force of our traditions.

And I would like to say to you that relations have improved even more, and it pleases me, it’s good. “However, we don’t do everything the same . . .” But we walk together, we go together. For the moment that’s O.K. Every day has its own trouble. I don’t know <but> this is what comes to me to say to you. Thank you.

Question: Your Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, has put us on guard regarding the risk in the ecumenical dialogue of giving priority to collaboration in social action rather than following the more exacting path of theological agreement. From all appearance, it seems that you prefer the opposite, namely “to walk and work” together to reach the goal of Christian unity. True?

The Pope’s Answer:

I don’t know the context in which Pope Benedict said this, I don’t know; therefore, it’s a bit difficult for me, you put me in an embarrassing position to answer . . .  Did you wish to say this or not . . . Perhaps it was in a conversation with theologians  . . . but I’m not sure. Both things are important. This certainly is. Which of the two has priority? And on the other side there is the famous witty remark of Patriarch Athenagoras – which is true, because I asked Patriarch Bartholomew the question and he said to me: “This is true,” when he said to Blessed Pope Paul VI: “We will bring about unity between us, and we will put all the theologians on an Island so that they think!” It was a joke, but historically true, because I doubted, but Patriarch Bartholomew said to me that it was true. But what is the kernel of this, because I think that what Pope Benedict said is true: the theological dialogue must be sought also to seek the roots . . . on the Sacraments . . . , on so many things on which we are not yet in agreement . . . However, this can’t be done in a laboratory: it must be done walking, along the way. We are on the way and on the way we also have these discussions. The theologians do so. But in the meantime, we help one another in our necessities, in our life, we also help one another spiritually. For instance, in the twinning there was the fact of studying Scripture together, and we help each other in the service of charity, in the service of the poor, in hospitals, in wars. It’s so important; this is so important — the ecumenical dialogue can’t be made by being still. No. The ecumenical dialogue is done on the way, because the ecumenical dialogue is a path, and theological things are discussed on the way. I think that with this I don’t betray Pope Benedict’s mind, or the reality of the ecumenical dialogue. I interpret it so. If I knew the context in which that expression was said, perhaps I would say otherwise, but this is what comes to me to say.

Question: All Saints church began with a group of British faithful, but it is now an international Congregation with people from different countries. In some areas of Africa, of Asia and of the Pacific, ecumenical relations between the Churches are better and more creative than here in Europe. What can we learn from the example of the Churches of the South of the world?

The Pope’s Answer: Thank you. It’s true. The young Churches have a different vitality, because they are young. And they look for a way to express themselves differently. For instance, a liturgy here at Rome, or think at London or Paris, is not the same as a liturgy in your country, where the liturgical ceremony, Catholic also, is expressed with joy, with dance and so many ways that are in fact proper to those young Churches. The young Churches have more creativity; and in the beginning it was  the same here in Europe too: they sought . . .When you read in the Didache, for instance, how the Eucharist was done, the meeting between Christians, there was great creativity. Then growing, growing the Church was consolidated well; she grew to an adult age. But the young Churches have more vitality and they also have the need to collaborate – a strong need. For instance, I’m studying, and my collaborators are studying the possibility of a trip to South Sudan. Why? Because the Bishops came, the Anglican, the Presbyterian and the Catholic, the three together to tell me: “please, come to South Sudan, only for one day, but don’t come alone. Come with Justin Welby,” that is, with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This creativity came from them, the young Churches. And we are thinking if it can be done, <or> if the situation is too awful down there . . .  But we should do it, because they, the three, together want peace, and they work together for peace . . .  There is a very interesting anecdote. When Blessed Paul VI did the Beatification of the martyrs of Uganda — a young Church –, among the martyrs were catechists, all young; some were Catholics, others Anglicans, and they were all martyred by the same king, out of hatred for the faith and because they didn’t want to follow the king’s filthy proposals. And Paul VI found himself embarrassed because he said” I must beatify the one and the other, one and the other are martyrs.” However, in that moment of the Catholic Church, it wasn’t  possible to do that. The Council had just taken place  . . .  However, today those young Churches celebrate with one another together; in the homily, in his address, in the Mass of Beatification, Paul VI also wished to name the Anglican catechists, martyrs of the faith, at the same level of the Catholic catechists. A young Church does this. The young Churches have courage, because they are young; as all young people, they have more courage than we do … <who are> not so young!

And then, there is my experience. I was very friendly with the Anglicans at Buenos Aires, because the back of the parish of Merced was connected with the Anglican Cathedral. I was very friendly with Bishop Gregory Venables, very friendly. But there’s another experience: In the north of Argentina there are the Anglican missions with the aborigines, and the Anglican Bishop and the Catholic Bishop there work together and teach. And when people can’t go on Sunday to the Catholic celebration they go to the Anglican, and the Anglicans go to the Catholic, because they don’t want to spend Sunday without a celebration; and they work together. And here, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith knows this. And they engage in charity together. And the two Bishops are friends and the two communities are friends.

I think this is a richness that our young Churches can bring to Europe and to the Churches that have a great tradition. And they give to us the solidity of a very, very well cared for and very thought out tradition. It’s true, — ecumenism in young Churches is easier. It’s true. But I believe that – and I return to the second question – ecumenism is perhaps more solid in theological research in a more mature Church, older in research, in the study of history, of Theology, of the Liturgy, as the Church in Europe is. And I think it would do us good, to both Churches: from here, from Europe to send some seminarians to have pastoral experience in the young Churches, so much is learned. We know <that> they come, from the young Churches, to study at Rome, at least the Catholics <do>. But to send them to see, to learn from the young Churches would be a great richness in the sense you said. Ecumenism is easier there, it’s easier, something that does not mean <it’s> more superficial, no, no, it’s not superficial. They don’t negotiate the faith and <their> identity. In the north of Argentina, an aborigine says to you: “I’m Anglican.” But the bishop is not here, the Pastor is not here, the Reverend is not here . . .  “I want to praise God on Sunday and so I go to the Catholic Cathedral,” and vice versa. They are riches of the young Churches. I don’t know, this is what comes to me to say to you.

[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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