Once again Rome offered an extraordinary range of observances for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Once again the consummation was the celebration of Vespers for the Conversion of St Paul at the place of his likely burial, the papal basilica of St Paul-outside-the-Walls, once again the highlight of the Week was the message from Pope Francis, now readable in full here. There could be no better mandate for the expression of unity now that this homily: it is just as if Pope Francis were writing and speaking for us in the Anglican Centre. He talked of the need to act now for unity, and to travel in that spirit, rather than waiting until we had agreed on every detail, because the discussions we need will take us until the final coming of Christ. Words are crucial, and so are mutual understandings, and we have a lot more than we think we do at about 85 % of core doctrine; but they cannot substitute for radical and concrete demonstrations of unexpected love.
During the week, at seven different occasions, two of which were at the Anglican Centre, we remembered the Samaritan woman at the well giving a cup of water to Jesus and the conversation that followed. There are three similar meetings between Old Testament prophets and women at a well and they are all to do with finding a wife. This encounter of Jesus is about a betrothal of a new sort, notwithstanding that the woman has had a number of previous husbands. This encounter calls the woman and the world to worship God in spirit and truth anywhere, and to make the love of God an incarnate reality in and between the temples of the Lord that are our bodies, and the mountains of the Lord that are our own local geography. This is what ecumenism means and needs now: making our unity real where we are by our combined solidarity for righteousness and justice. This will lead to full ecclesial unity in some shape or form eventually, because it offers a foretaste of the beauty and diversity of being together, like a well-tended, well-watered garden rather than a barren land.
The Anglican Centre in Rome is a UK
Charity with a world-wide mission.
Interim Director: The Very Revd Dr John Shepherd
Deputy Director: Revd Dr Justin Lewis-Anthony
The Anglican Centre in Rome,
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj,
Piazza del Collegio Romano 2,
00186 Roma, Italy.
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