The former Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, has been installed in his combined role director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal representative to the Holy See. The installation as director of the Anglican Centre took place last night during Anglican evensong at the Caravita - the Oratorio di San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – a Catholic church that is often used by the Anglican Centre in Rome. This morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, took Archbishop Bernard to the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis. The meeting was followed by lunch at the Pope’s residence.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby meets Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier today.
Photo: Anglican Centre in Rome / Twitter
The experienced Vatican-based journalist Christopher Lamb, writing in The Tablet, said: “It is not common for Francis to invite people he meets for official audiences to lunch so the gesture can be read as a sign of the warmth and ease of the relationship that exists between the Pope and Welby.”
Before their meeting with Pope Francis this meeting, Archbishops Justin and Bernard and their small entourage were given a private behind-the-scenes tour of the Vatican. Today’s meeting is the second with the Pope for Ntahoturi since he was named as the successor to the now-retired centre director, Archbishop David Moxon, in March. Ntahoturi spent several days in Rome in May, and met Pope Francis during at the outskirts of his weekly General Audience.
Archbishop David Moxon introduced Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi to Pope Francis during one of the Pope’s General Audiences in May this year.
Photo: Anglican Centre in Rome / Twitter
“These few days that I spent in Rome confirmed the great importance of our presence in that city,” Ntahoturi said in a blog post for the Anglican Communion News Service at the time. “A place of presence and hospitality not only for Anglicans, but for all those who live outside Rome, that they could come and learn about the life of the church – locally, but universally as well.”
Ntahoturi is a former civil servant who served as chief of staff to Burundi’s President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza from 1979 to 1986. He served four years in prison following the 1987 military coup. Later, he was appointed Bishop of Matana and then Archbishop of Burundi. He also worked as vice-chair of the country’s commission on truth and reconciliation.
Reconciliation “talks to the hearts of people,” he said in an interview with Vatican Radio, adding that Christians have a responsibility to “bring people together to see the other not as an evil, a demon, because there’s demonisation, but as someone created by God.”
The preacher at last night’s evensong was Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister. Gallagher had previously served as papal nuncio – the Vatican’s ambassador – in Burundi and had previously attended Ntahoturi’s installation as Archbishop of Burundi.
Among the congregation last night was Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Catholic co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic) and Bishop Stephen Platten, the chair of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Also present was Ambassador Sally Axworthy, the British government’s senior diplomat to the Vatican.
The new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; and the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, give the blessing at the end of last night’s Anglican evensong at the Caravita, at which Archbishop Bernard was commissioned for his new role.
Photo: Anglican Centre in Rome
The Anglican Centre in Rome – sometimes dubbed the Anglican Communion’s spy station in the Vatican – was opened in 1966 at the time of the first public meeting between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation, when Archbishop Michael Ramsey met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. Relations between the Anglican Communion and the Vatican have improved significantly since then – today’s meeting is the fourth formal meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin.
In an interview with the Diocese of Chicago’s Thrive magazine, Ntahoturi was asked about whether the work of the centre could be undermined by tensions within the Anglican Communion and disagreements with the Vatican on issues such as the ordination of women. “Issues will always be there in any organisation in any human society,” he said. “For me, I feel that the only place where we shall not have differences and issues is when we get to heaven.
“So I believe that those questions within the Anglican Communion between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church and others will continue, but what is important to me is, ‘Are we ready, are we willing, to sit and discuss and accept that in spite of those issues we can continue witnessing to the world?’
“When we talk about unity, I don’t think we will be talking about an organic unity—that we be under the same umbrella – but the unity that Jesus Christ prayed for, and that I think we should been encouraging now. It is a unity of saying, ‘Can we join hands and then witness to the world in action and also through our faith?’”
He continued: “the journey is long, but the journey is enjoyed when you walk together with other people and not necessarily those who think like you and those who work and like and look like you, but those who are different.
“If you look at the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, they were really different. So that’s how I see the denominations and the different churches. Let’s walk together with the mission that God has given us, joining God at work, because we are not the ones initiating but we are really learning what God is doing in the world. And then He calls us to be his partners.”