Your Royal Highness, It is an honour to be in your presence again after so many years. Although this has happened several times – the first may have escaped your attention: It was 47 years ago, in the October of 1970, when you came to Fiji to declare that country independent. I was there with the Volunteer Service Abroad and, at the tender age of 18, had been asked to stand in for you, to pretend to be you, during the many complex military and civic rehearsals of the previous days… A newspaper recorded my role with the headlines “Prince for a day” ...my mother said I never got over it…
However this evening I am being myself. It is a great privilege to have your support for this cause which brings us together now.
When Pope Paul VI gave his episcopal ring to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, and placed it on his finger in 1966, the Pope said to the Archbishop:
You have rebuilt a bridge which, for centuries, has lain fallen between the Church of Rome and the Church of Canterbury. You cross over with spontaneous initiative and confidence.
The rebuilding of a fallen bridge, the spontaneity and initiatives of the crossing, the courage and piety of this pilgrimage of hope that Pope Paul VI spoke of 50 years ago are very much the best way to describe our work at the Anglican Centre in Rome now, as we pursue the goal of unity which is Christ’s will for the Church.
Many bridges were built last year in October when Archbishop Justin came to Rome to celebrate fifty years of that first meeting in Rome and of the opening of the Centre. He brought with him his own pectoral cross – a Cross of Nails – which he put into the hands of Pope Francis… who stunned the congregation by taking it, kissing it, and putting it round his own neck. Archbishop Justin took home a gift of even greater significance: a crozier; the staff of a bishop; modelled on the crozier of St Gregory the Great and given in San Gregorio al Celio, the church where Pope Gregory sent St Augustine to Canterbury in 595. Sometimes, only symbols can sum up just how far we have come.
The next day saw 18 pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops, gathered from all over the world, receive a Lampedusa Cross, each made from the wood of a boat which has foundered on the journey across the Mediterranean Sea. The next week we, from the Centre, went to the Middle East and spent two weeks meeting with Christians from the indigenous churches in Jerusalem and some of the Christians who have fled their homes in Iraq and taken refuge in Jordan. Out of this some of those who were with us have started conversations about how to work with our Evangelical and Catholic friends in Italy to help those who are fleeing the horrors of the Middle East be given shelter in Italy safely.
So what does this all mean?
Catholics and Anglicans – and Orthodox and other Christians – have found themselves united… in the face of persecution around the world; what Pope Francis has called the Ecumenism of Blood.
Now we are finding that we can choose to be united in facing other challenges: on the frontiers of refugee ministry, of anti-slavery networks, of climate change challenges and of poverty and development causes.
For fifty years, the Anglican Centre has been building the bridges which allow this co-operation to happen: bridges of compassion and hope, which reveal a shared Christian ministry. This sharing is already transforming the theological dialogue between us, formally on ARCIC, and informally on the revived Malines Conversations, for example, with which my predecessor David Richardson and I have been heavily involved. This is bringing a deeper degree of communion between the world’s two largest Christian communities, a communion which in the end is to be shared with all the world. If we are capable of intensifying our witness to this sacred and essential unity in diversity, we shall have something transformative to share in a divided world.
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.
Contact us by phone on:
+39 06 678 0302
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