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Anglican-Roman Catholic unity takes shape in Canterbury and Rome

Posted on: October 5, 2016 7:59 AM
Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops process into Canterbury Cathedral for Evensong on Saturday as part of their Iarccum meeting.
Photo Credit: ACNS

[ACNS] Pulpit swaps, shared retreats, joint action on social issues and regular meetings between clergy are just some of the ideas for local expressions of unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics taking shape during an ecumenical summit in Canterbury and Rome. This afternoon, during a service in the monastery church of San Gregorio al Cielo, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will commission 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to implement local expressions of unity in their dioceses around the world.

The commissioning of the 19-pairs of bishops has been organised by the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (Iarccum) as part of a week-long ecumenical summit marking the 50th anniversary of the first public meeting between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation.

The summit, which began at the weekend in Canterbury Cathedral and is continuing now in the Vatican, will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

“I have been deeply moved by what has been happening,” the Anglican Bishop of Sialkot in Pakistan, the Rt Revd Alwin Samuel, said. “To see Roman Catholics celebrating the Eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral was a miracle.

“It is an answer to Jesus’ prayer that we may be one.”

His Roman Catholic counterpart, the Most Revd Sebastian Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore, said that the two had agreed that their clergy would meet twice a year “to agree methodology and to learn from one another so that our evangelism becomes more effective and powerful.”

He said: “This is a good environment to learn from each other. We have found that we have the same challenges all over the world – secularism, pluralism and the growth of newer churches.”

Bishop Samuel added: “Bishop Sebastian and I have been thinking about the concrete steps we can take towards greater unity because we are on one mission.

“We will make concrete efforts. For example, we have been thinking about exchanging pulpits – having a Roman Catholic preach in an Anglican church and an Anglican at a Catholic church.”

The Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey from the Church of Ceylon, said that he was “really excited” by the way the summit participants had been “celebrating our common call.”

He said: “Its greatest success is breaking down the walls of separation. We are becoming ‘buddies’ – partnerships grow when we hear about each other’s situations.

“In Sri Lanka, we are developing ideas to work together. For example, leaders having joint retreats, joint youth rallies, joint church rallies. And our work on social issues can be joint too.”

The Anglican Bishop of the Cape Coast in Ghana, the Rt Revd Victor Atta-Baffoe, part of the Church of the Province of West Africa, described the summit as “interesting and challenging.”

He said: “This is a step forward. The links we already have are at local level. The challenge for us is building a platform at national level to give us a stronger voice.

“People are interested in what we stand for. There is a myth of separation between the churches in Ghana (which Iarccum work will help us to overcome.)

“This is a joy for the two of us. Working together will help us give a voice to the voiceless. We will be able to speak into areas such as policy-making and social services.”

  • A fuller interview with Bishop Alwin Samuel and Archbishop Sebastian Shaw will appear in the next edition of Anglican World, the quarterly magazine of the Anglican Communion. You can subscribe by clicking here.