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Anglican Centre in Rome celebrates 50th anniversary of the John Moorman Library

Posted on: September 30, 2023 9:46 AM
Bishop John Moorman, who created the library at the Anglican Centre in Rome, was a keen ecumenist. Here, he is pictured with Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council
Photo Credit: The Vatican

The Anglican Centre in Rome is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its famous John Moorman Library with an exhibition of some of its most treasured items. The exhibition, which is being opened by the Archbishop of Cantebrury, Justin Welby, this morning (Saturday 30 September) will highlight the library’s ecumenical missionary endeavours.

The exhibition will include new artworks commissioned for the anniversary and inspired by the library’s rich history and collection.

The Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop Ian Ernest, said: “this exhibition is made up of the library’s most treasured material, along with contributions of created artworks by international artists inspired by the library’s history and collection, highlighting the Anglican Centre’s ecumenical missionary endeavours and bearing witness to the quest of God’s people on their journey towards unity.”

John Moorman was Bishop of Leeds in the Church of England from 1959 until his retirement in 1975. A committed ecumenist, he was a frequent visitor to the Vatican, and led the Anglican delegation invited to observe the Second Vatican Council. In 1967 he was appointed Chairman of the Anglican commission that led to the creation of ARCIC – the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. He remained a member of ARCIC until 1981. He died eight years later, at the age of 84.

The library at the Anglican Centre in Rome was effectively created by John Moorman. He arranged for its installation in the Doria-Pamphilj Palace, which has been home to the ACR for the past 50 years, and also appealed to publishers, communities, authors, and friends to donate material, enlisting the help of competent scholars to monitor accessions and receive donations, including 189 books from the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, bequeathed by his wife.

Today, the library is widely recognised as one of the largest collections in Europe dedicated to the Anglican tradition, history, culture, and ecumenism.

As part of the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to explore contributions and artworks from worldwide collaborators, including notable institutions such as the Virginia Theological Seminary, Saint Michael’s Parish in Dallas, the Venerable English College, Centro Pro Uniole, the Lambeth Palace Library, Gladstone's Library, and Ripon Cathedral.

“Through a carefully curated selection of themes, events, and personalities associated with the Centre's history and library collection, visitors will have the opportunity to unearth an array of treasures”, the ACR said in a statement. “These treasures include letters of historical significance, autographed books, captivating photographs, exquisite artworks, and much more, all of which bear witness to the profound journey towards unity undertaken by God's people.”

Archbishop Ian Ernest said: “the library is a rich legacy of gems and treasures that can inspire future generations. My deepest gratitude is extended towards all those who have worked relentlessly to create what we hope will be a historic exhibition. My desire is that the legacy of the exhibition might go some way to raise the profile of Bishop John Moorman’s ecumenical vision, highlight the resource of the John Moorman Library, and further the missionary endeavors of the Anglican Centre, Rome, both today and for generations to come.

“Our commitment to fostering understanding and unity among diverse communities, both within the Anglican tradition and beyond, remains unwavering.”

The opening of the exhibition coincides with Pope Francis’ ecumenical prayer event, Together, which will take place in Saint Peter’s Square this evening. The exhibition will run to Wednesday 4 October.