The Chief Pastor of Rome 

Pope in All Saints

The Holy Spirit is always quickening and surprising us, and always present anyway in our openness to faith hope and love. This was the case on Sunday evening at All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome, where Pope Francis made history by being the first Pope ever to visit the church.

There were many ground breaking moments, and I think that three stand out.

Firstly, having offered a question and answer dialogue to the parish, the Pope engaged in an unforgettable dialogue with local parishioners on ecumenism and shared mission. In particular Pope Francis fascinated us by describing the practise he had experienced in Argentina:

In the Northern part of Argentina, there are Anglican missions with the indigenous peoples and Catholic missions with the indigenous people, and the Anglican bishop and the Catholic Bishop from there work and teach together. And when people are not able to go to catholic celebrations on Sunday, they go to the anglican one, and the Anglicans go to the catholic ones, because they don’t want to spend Sunday without a celebration; and they work together. And here the congregation for the doctrine of the faith knows this. And they do charity together. And the two bishops are friends and the two communities are friends.

... They don’t negotiate the faith and their identity, that indigenous person from Northern Argentina says to you “I am Anglican”. But [when]there is no Bishop, there is no Pastor, there is no Reverend... “I wish to praise God on Sunday and go to the Catholic Cathedral”, and vice versa.*

This is a transfiguring story. By this he teaches us to be less anxious over our differences and unresolved doctrinal issues, while still working hard on them, but to commit ourselves more and more to sharing and partnership as we seek God and give ourselves to heal the worlds divisions, wounds and sins.
Secondly, the Pope mentioned a possible joint peace initiative by him and Archbishop Justin Welby in South Sudan, by local ecumenical invitation, to help the mediation process to end the civil war and the human tragedies of that country. If this happens, (and the Pope said it must), we will begin to minister to the world together in a totally new way.
Thirdly, this evening service with all its gifts and fruits was clearly a once in a lifetime, maybe even a once in a century, moment, and was a stunningly beautiful and powerful event to be part of. We learn from Pope Francis, as candles were lit around the shining icon he blessed and censed, that perfect love casts out fear, like light dispelling shadows. The Pope was clearly present as the chief pastor of Rome as a whole, because he was commemorating with the parish their 200th anniversary. This is the first ever visit of a Pope to any local Anglican parish - the papal visits to Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral were national events with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Francis was there last night as the Bishop of Rome (alongside the Anglican Bishop of Europe, Robert Innes and his suffragan David Hamid who has responsibility for Italy).
Once again experienced the power of the truth we learn from the living word of God: “ God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of self- control”. 2 Timothy 1 :7. These words may well have been written, just under two thousand years ago, underneath the site of the Anglican Centre in Rome, where Paul is thought to have been kept under house arrest, and where the kernel of the Timothy letters were conceived. What better foundation could we build on in this mission which we are so privileged to share in at this kairos time.
Fr Jonathan Boardman is to be congratulated along with the All Saints' community for their great vision and creative hospitality.

*The text in Italian reads as follows:

Nel nord dell’Argentina ci sono le missioni anglicane con gli aborigeni e le missioni cattoliche con gli aborigeni, e il Vescovo anglicano e il Vescovo cattolico di là lavorano insieme, e insegnano. E quando la gente non può andare la domenica alla celebrazione cattolica va a quella anglicana, e gli anglicani vanno alla cattolica, perché non vogliono passare la domenica senza una celebrazione; e lavorano insieme. E qui la Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede lo sa. E fanno la carità insieme. E i due i Vescovi sono amici e le due comunità sono amiche.

... Loro non negoziano la fede e l’identità. Quell’aborigeno ti dice nel nord Argentina: “Io sono anglicano”. Ma non c’è il vescovo, non c’è il pastore, non c’è il reverendo… “Io voglio lodare Dio la domenica e vado alla cattedrale cattolica”, e viceversa.

The full text of Pope Francis' homily and answers can be found by clicking here.

David Moxon, 27/02/2017