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Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin pray for unity

Posted on: October 6, 2016 2:24 PM
Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby met this morning at the Vatican after yesterday's historic vespers service.
Photo Credit: Vatican Television

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Pope Francis has this morning (Thursday) held a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican Primates and bishops at the Vatican. The Pope told them that ecumenism was “never an impoverishment, but a richness” and he said that during the past 50-years of closer relationship between Anglicans and Catholics, “the certainty has deepened that what the Spirit has sown in the other yields a common harvest.”

And he urged them: “Let us never grow tired of asking the Lord together and insistently for the gift of unity.”

Addressing the Anglican leaders as “dear brothers and sisters in Christ”, he described the gathering as “a beautiful sign of fraternity”.

And he described the historic meeting 50 years ago between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey – the first public meeting between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation – as producing “many fruits.”

“We need think only of the opening of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the appointment of the Archbishop’s permanent representative to the Holy See, and the start of our theological dialogue, [Arcic],” he said. “In sharing together these fruits, we remember that they come from a tree which has its roots in that meeting of fifty years ago.”

He said: “There is a time for everything, and now is the time in which the Lord challenges us, in a particular way, to go out from ourselves and our own environs, in order to bring his merciful love to a world thirsting for peace.

“Let us help one another to keep at the centre the demands of the Gospel and to spend ourselves concretely in this mission.”

In response, Archbishop Justin Welby thanked Pope Francis for his leadership and example to the world and the Anglican Communion, and said that his letters and encyclicals “have spoken far beyond Rome and her church, in a manner which is universal.”

After listing a range of serious issues facing the world, including war, migration, climate change and religiously motivated violence, Archbishop Welby said: “Facing all these perils, and a million more, is the body of Christ, the church, against which, as was promised to St Peter, the gates of hell shall not prevail.

“We have much cause for concern, but none for fear, for we are embraced by Christ, our Good Shepherd. In fact, we are filled with joy and hope, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who is given to us.

“Yet in our disunity we grieve the Spirit of God, and we damage every aspect of our lives in Christ. Our witness is damaged, for we are not seen as one, and thus the world is less able to see that Jesus comes from the Father. Our fellowship is impaired, for we cannot share in the Eucharist. Our delight in Christ is overshadowed by our grief at divisions within his family.”

And he said: “Your Holiness, I ask that, as we have seen in these two days, despite those things that divide, we may be publicly determined to press forward where we may, together with all other Christians, especially those of the Orthodox world and the east.

“Jesus has gone before us. He calls us to be courageous. Let us walk closer together so the world sees new life and energy in the Church’s worship, mission and witness. Above all so the world sees Christ shining ever more brightly.”


The full text of the Pope’s comments:

Your Grace,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you for your presence. It is a beautiful sign of fraternity to see the Primates of so many Provinces of the Anglican Communion joining you here in Rome. We have solemnly celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the historic meeting between Blessed Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey. That meeting has produced many fruits: we need think only of the opening of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the appointment of the Archbishop’s permanent representative to the Holy See, and the start of our theological dialogue, represented by the volume containing five documents from the second phase of ARCIC (1982-2005). In sharing together these fruits, we remember that they come from a tree which has its roots in that meeting of fifty years ago.

Reflecting on our continuing common journey, three words come to mind: prayer, witness, mission.

Prayer: yesterday evening we celebrated Vespers, and this morning you prayed here at the tomb of the Apostle Peter. Let us never grow tired of asking the Lord together and insistently for the gift of unity.

Witness: these past fifty years of encounter and exchange, as well as reflection and common texts, speak to us of Christians who, for faith and with faith, have listened to one another and shared their time and energy. The conviction has grown that ecumenism is never an impoverishment, but a richness; the certainty has deepened that what the Spirit has sown in the other yields a common harvest. Let us treasure this inheritance and know that we are called each day to offer to the world, as Jesus asked, the witness of our love and unity (cf. Jn 15:12; 17:21).

Mission: there is a time for everything (cf. Eccles 3:1) and now is the time in which the Lord challenges us, in a particular way, to go out from ourselves and our own environs, in order to bring his merciful love to a world thirsting for peace. Let us help one another to keep at the centre the demands of the Gospel and to spend ourselves concretely in this mission.

And to ask the grace of growing in prayer, in bearing witness and in going out in mission, may I invite you to pray together the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father. . .

The full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments:

Your Holiness, I would like to begin by expressing gratitude to God for your leadership and example to the whole world, and especially for their effect on the Anglican Communion.

You have recalled us afresh to the needs of ministering with the poor. You have set a Christ-like example by your travel to places of suffering and difficulty. You have stood alongside migrant peoples. You have initiated work on modern slavery and human trafficking, and much more. You gave essential force to the meeting of nations in Paris on climate change.

Your letters and encyclicals have spoken far beyond Rome and her church, in a manner which is universal.

Yet, as we look around the world we continue to see enormous dangers to human dignity, and great suffering. The dangers faced are ones that many acknowledge, but to which few have a response.

Into this mix of war, migration and climate change, economic deprivation, inequality and corruption, we see added the growth of extremist groups advocating religiously motivated violence, affecting most, probably even all, of the great world faiths. The internet enables their poison to spread around the world with lightning speed, catching the naïve and lost, and leading them into paths of destruction. Secular values disregard the unborn, especially those with disabilities, and discard the aged. Family life is marginalised in the cause of economic necessity.

Facing all these perils, and a million more, is the body of Christ, the church, against which, as was promised to St Peter, the gates of hell shall not prevail. We have much cause for concern, but none for fear, for we are embraced by Christ, our Good Shepherd. In fact, we are filled with joy and hope, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who is given to us.

Yet in our disunity we grieve the Spirit of God, and we damage every aspect of our lives in Christ. Our witness is damaged, for we are not seen as one, and thus the world is less able to see that Jesus comes from the Father. Our fellowship is impaired, for we cannot share in the Eucharist. Our delight in Christ is overshadowed by our grief at divisions within his family.

Last January, at the final Eucharist of the Anglican Primates we were blessed by the loan of the Crozier of St Gregory, and by the loan the Gospels brought by Augustine to England in 597. Speaking to us was Jean Vanier, who led us in washing each other’s feet. All three brought us back to the simplicity of Christ who breaks down divisions, and in cross and resurrection and giving the Holy Spirit, restored human dignity.

This week we have seen the meeting of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), established in 2000. Its less than beautiful name hides the beauty of its work, in which, with joy and love it seeks to show the world by our joint action in Mission that we are bound deeply in Christ, who is the hope of the world.

May we learn from them, and the blessing they are finding and giving. May we tackle together the issues of war and injustice.

Your Holiness, I ask that, as we have seen in these two days, despite those things that divide, we may be publicly determined to press forward where we may, together with all other Christians, especially those of the Orthodox world and the east. Jesus has gone before us. He calls us to be courageous. Let us walk closer together so the world sees new life and energy in the Church’s worship, mission and witness. Above all so the world sees Christ shining ever more brightly.