Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

A Speech delivered to the Nikaean Club, in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace, London
June 14th 2016 

Presented and edited by Archbishop David Moxon KNZM,
Director of the Centre and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See.

DM reading Abbey

It is a great privilege and joy to share some thoughts on this wonderful occasion, as we celebrate fifty years of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Firstly, we all know that an extraordinary meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey is part of the reason we are here tonight. On March the 24th 1966, at St Paul’s Basilica Outside the Walls. Pope Paul VI gave his episcopal ring to the Archbishop and placed it on his finger. The Pope had said to the Archbishop,  

Your steps have not brought you to a foreign dwelling ... we are pleased to open the doors to you, and with the doors, our heart, pleased and honoured as we are ... to welcome you ‘not as a guest or a stranger, but as a fellow citizen of the Saints and the Family of God’" (cf.Eph2:19-20).”.

That meeting led to the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome, now fifty years old, the formation of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission and eventually the creation of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission.

There was a discussion between the two denominational officials coordinating the event at St Paul’s, as to whether the Archbishop should be told beforehand about the giving of the ring. They decided it should be a surprise, an unexpected blessing, and so it moved the Archbishop profoundly at the time, something he recalled to the end of his days. Each time an Archbishop of Canterbury comes to Rome, he wears that ring, kept in Lambeth Palace. The ring case is kept in the Anglican Centre.

Ever since this remarkable and poignant event, two themes have been the characteristic of official, global Anglican Roman Catholic encounters and the life of the Anglican Centre.  These are a combination of careful planning, and of unexpected blessings. These twin themes were evident in the speech we have just valued so much from Bishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. These themes are also evident in his great care and friendship to the Anglican Centre over the years, in liaison with the very fine work and support of Father Tony Currer and Monsignor Mark Langham before him.

In terms of careful planning, I pay tribute tonight to Bishop Stephen Platten, chair of the ACR Board of Governors for so many years now, for great commitment and care, for a rigorous and professional oversight, that has seen the Centre through so much change and development. The skilled work of the Reverend Barry Nichols as Board Treasurer and Board Secretary has also been crucial to the survival of the Centre administratively and fiscally for so long, as well as the board members as a whole.  Bridget Moss as Development Officer, The Revd Bill Snelson before her, and now The Revd Martin MacDonald as our current Treasurer offer so much. I give thanks for the work of Canon Mark Williams as the new chair of the Development Committee and The Revd Dr Jamie Hawkey as the new Chair of the Endowment Appeal Committee. It is right to also pay tribute to Bishop Edward Holland who chaired the UK Friends group with such genuine devotion. Dr James Thomson has rightly been thanked this evening for his extraordinarily effective work as a member of the Development Committee for identifying Anglican Centre in Rome Diocesan Representatives throughout England.

Looking back before Bishop Stephen, over fifty years as whole, we need to recognize and give thanks for his predecessors as chair: Bishop Frank Griswold, Bishop Mark Santer and Bishop John Moorman, whose personal library adorns the foyer reception area of the Centre.

Down through five decades, the Directors before me, several of whom have been with us this afternoon at the Abbey, each contributed significantly with their own special character and strengths: Dean Emeritus Canon David Richardson, Bishop John Flack, Bishop Richard Garrard, Bishop John Baycroft, Canon now Precentor Bruce Ruddock, Father Douglas Brown SSM, Canon Howard Root, Canon Harry Smythe, Canon John Findlow, and Canon Bernard Pawley who represented the Archbishop of Canterbury before there was an Anglican Centre and was an observer at Vatican II.

These in their turn related to their Catholic counterparts in Rome through the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, led through these years by Cardinal Bea, Cardinal Willbrands, Cardinal Cassidy, Cardinal Kasper, and now Cardinal Koch, all of whom have been such fine partners in the faith , hope and love that transforms  us all.

What were we all trying to achieve and to do in particular? The five themes of our mission today make this clear.

Presence: Being the continuing symbol and embodiment of the Anglican Communion’s commitment to the vision of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

Maintaining a representative presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion world-wide, through the Director of the Centre.  By ‘presence’ is meant everything that the very existence of the Anglican Centre in Rome expresses about the Anglican Communion’s commitment to unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Conversation: Facilitating the vision of meeting together, talking together and walking together.

The Common Declaration by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966 at the time the ACR began stated that the Pope and the Archbishop ‘intend to inaugurate between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion a serious dialogue…’ A key role in mission of the Centre is that of maintaining and fostering conversations about unity, supporting ARCIC, IARCCUM, the national Anglican-Roman Catholic Commissions and other ecumenical networks, dialogues and institutions.

Worship, hospitality and education: Continuing to be a place of worship, hospitality and education for everyone, sponsoring courses, providing advice on visits and pilgrimages, offering a quiet place of spiritual and intellectual renewal for sabbaticals, meetings, and study.

From the outset, the Centre has offered a number of courses each year, primarily but not exclusively, for Anglicans. These rely on the rich resources of the Eternal City which employs these resources imaginatively. Over nearly five decades, the Anglican Centre in Rome has developed and refined its role as educator, expanding into early evening seminars and colloquia as well as developing the theological content of Centro, the newsletter of the Centre.

The exchange of gifts: Promoting new insights, ideas, experience and developments in Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, both in Rome and across the world, creating opportunities for each tradition to hear and receive from the other its insights, fears and hopes – Receptive Ecumenism. This means sharing our worst nightmares in mission together, offering healing gifts for wounded hands, rather than getting the best china out as it were, when we meet. Then the God of surprises will come to our mutual assistance.

Living in the unique situation in the heart of Rome, the Anglican Centre in Rome is very aware of needing to ask what might be learned or received with integrity from our Roman Catholic interlocutors. An exchange goes further and demands of us that we ask what we might teach and give in return.

Initiating and encouraging; Communicating fresh ideas and best practice, fostering collaboration:

  • Distributing these courses, practices, model relationships, liturgies and study guides.
  • Communicating stories about the varied and rich daily life at the Anglican Centre.
  • Reporting systematically to the Anglican Communion, especially to the primates and targeted leaders, to tell the stories of what we are doing to promote Christian unity in a divided world.
  • Brokering joint practical mission projects, statements and study.
  • Building effective structures for common action.
  • Being the focal point to facilitate Anglican collaboration with the offices of the Vatican, especially the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Building capacity: As the sustainability of the ACR relies on a long-term focus on capacity development, we need to enrich our resources, viability and stakeholder awareness in order to breathe new life into the Centre’s mission and vision. We are indeed trying to address our need for more secure funding this year above all.

I sometimes think that this mission is not unlike being a fiddler on a roof. Our precarious fiscal position means that we need funding every year, we can’t guarantee the Centre’s existence, but we try to retain our balance and visibility, playing a tune of faith, hope and love.   What unites us is greater than what divides us. That’s the score.

We stand on that roof, playing that tune, saying to people ‘Look up! The Holy Spirit is moving to build bridges all the time.’ We are part of that process, part of that energy. God gives the courage and hope needed to build bridges between the denominations.

Perhaps a better image would the one we have actually adopted as our logo, the dove on the tree in the centre, holding a piece of foliage is a sign of the Holy Spirit, as a bringer of good news, as was the dove which brought this sign of new beginnings to Noah . The dove is also a sign of the Kingdom of God of which Christ spoke, this kingdom being like a tree in whose branches many birds may come and roost. The blue sometimes represents the river Tiber and the brown green the hills of Rome.

The cross is a sign to us of the triumph of God in Christ over the power of sin and death .The butterflies are a sign of the resurrection, which brings the liberation and freedom of God’s new creation for us and for all the world. The shell is a symbol of the common baptism of all members of the Body of Christ on earth.

The Anglican Centre in Rome seeks therefore, by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, to be a site of the good news of a new creation. The Centre is a place to which a person can fly in as it were, can come, can rest, and can be re invigorated by the grace and hope of God, who seeks the reconciliation of all people and all of creation in the divine purpose.
This brings to mind a saying of Emily Dickenson about hope, imaged as a bird.

“Hope is the feathered thing that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words and never stops at all”

This is all about careful planning, hope is a method.
By contrast, In terms of unexpected gifts, which quicken our hope, we have seen so many and they cannot all be recounted here. To name a few:

  • I have referred already to the giving of the ring.
  • There was the giving of a pectoral cross from Pope John Paul II to Archbishop Rowan Williams.
  • From the beginning, the great generosity of the Doria Pamphilj family in hosting us at the Palazzo; it is so good to have Principessa Gesina here with us this evening.
  • The gift of so much wonderful furniture from Monsignor Charlie Burn’s own apartment when he left it.
  • Being asked to share in a pontifical blessing by Pope Francis at St Pauls Outside the Walls at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year.
  • The ever supportive and life-giving covenant with the Caravita oratory community, our remarkable neighbours, created during the time of Canon David Richardson, care of The Reverend Professor Keith Pecklers SJ of the Gregorian University, as well as the mutual enrichment we receive from Dr Donna Orsuto of the Lay Centre, the Reverend Professor Gerry Whelan SJ of the Gregorian University, Monica Attias of the St Egidio Community, and  Fr Giacomo Puglisi SA of the Centro Pro Unione.
  • The love and care of people like Sandra Seagram Annovazzi, Clare Broadbent, Pia Johansen, Father Jonathan Boardman, previously long time tutor to the ACR, and the Revd’s Mary Styles and Dana English.  Each Director has been hugely supported by British Ambassadors to the Holy See.
  • We could also name the re-start of the ARCIC Commission in 2011 and IARCCUM in 2012 after they had fallen on fallow times.  I could go on.

Given this sense of many unexpected blessings, even in the midst of great difficulty and division, perhaps we can try to sum up what happens sometimes by turning to another bird image. Some crucifixes show the Holy Trinity as a field of love in action, even in the face of death. The Father is shown over- arching all, the Spirit comes from him hovering as a descending dove over the wounded dying body of Jesus. This active life-giving spirit will bring this divided, bleeding body to resurrection when the time is right, to a new creation, to an Easter Joy and an Easter Way of Life.

Where do we actually go from here though in practice, with this hope in mind? The goal of visible unity has receded beyond the horizon and isn’t visible to us at this time, what are we to do?

Sometimes people get a little cynical about ecumenism. Sometimes they wonder what the point is. But living and working in Rome you can see the point. And now, especially, with this Pontificate – with Pope Francis and with Archbishop Justin – there are all kinds of evidence to show that it is worth it. The Pope and Archbishop Justin are saying:

‘Let us behave as if we are one where we can, even though we haven’t agreed on everything.’

In some cases the differences seem quite significant, but let us behave as if we are one for the sake of the Kingdom of God, for justice and peace.

Collaborative work on issues of justice, people trafficking, refugees and city missions are all ways in which the world needs our solidarity, our co-operation and our partnership. We need to be found together on these frontiers. The world will see this as a witness that it can recognise.  Even a terrorist makes no distinction between Christians, as Pope Francis said when he spoke of an ecumenism of blood several years ago.

This is a new kind of ecumenism which is driven by mission. Rather than just trying to close the dogmatic gaps – which are so important to close – Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin are saying ‘let us generate a sense of communion now, where we can, on the ground’.

The more you walk together, the better you talk together. A lot of people think you can only walk together once you have talked together enough. I think it is often the other way around.

This walk is accompanied by a sacred energy that comes from God, and not from us, who walks with us, who is above all and in all and through all, seeking to reconcile the world through the Son. In Him we live and move and have our being, and this is what moves us on.

We move on to that great hope above all hope imaged in the vision of the eschaton, of the ultimate goal of all things through the limitless and ever self -giving love of God in Christ. This flow of grace and communion is imaged so beautifully by John Donne, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, in one of his sermons preached four hundred years ago, not far from this place. He speaks of a communion where there is,

“No noise, nor silence but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity”

This is what we enjoy this evening as a foretaste, this is the unity we glimpse and can share, even now.
The staff group at the ACR at this time is the best possible combination of intelligence, skill and personal commitment that I could wish for. Father Marcus is superb at Anglican theology, liturgy and ecumenism, educational and tour input, as well as social media skill, networking in Rome and strategic as well as planning instincts. He is a gifted communicator and educator.

Our new full time manager, Louise Hettiche is extraordinarily energized and focused, with a real flair for honed administration and oversight of logistics: She has more than justified the emergence of a manager role and is a very competent operational planner. She is very pleasant but also professional with people, as well as being superbly bicultural if not tri cultural.

Luca de Gasperis, the new part time Assistant to Louise and PA for courses is a most conscientious and pleasant Italian manager of our educational work. We need his immersion in Roman life, Italian culture and bureaucracy as well as language. He has also become a very competent and necessary study trip associate.

Juliette Anderson is operating on more part time hours with great care and very good people skills. She handles demanding and flexible hours very well and is a pleasure to work with.

Anita Mancia is methodical and sure, and a very intelligent part time archivist and librarian, a relatively new role for us. You can sense the order and control of the library now and she has completed major IARCCUM and ARCIC archiving for the IARCCUM website as well as hard copy files.

At the time of writing we have Hrvoje Nikolic, a Catholic theological student from Croatia working with us for four months full time as a volunteer. He is a most pleasant addition to the team and is preparing the data for Mary Reath’s book on the ACR.

David Moxon, 17/06/2016