Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, and Pope Francis attend a prayer service during a private audience at the Vatican June 14. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)
Today Pope Francis received Archbishop Justin Welby of
Canterbury at the Vatican. It was the first time the two religious leaders met.
From Catholic News Service’s report on the meeting:
Meeting at the Vatican June 14, praying together in the
Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace and eating lunch together in
the papal residence, both remarked on the fact that Pope Francis’ inaugural
Mass was celebrated March 19 and Archbishop Welby’s installation was March 21.
we began our respective ministries within days of each other, I think we will
always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer,” Pope Francis
said. He also thanked the new Anglican leader for praying for him during his
installation at Canterbury Cathedral.
Welby told him, “I pray that the nearness of our two inaugurations may serve
the reconciliation of the world and the church.”
two spent more than 30 minutes meeting privately, with an interpreter, before
giving their speeches, exchanging gifts and joining about 100 Catholics and
Anglicans from Rome for the prayer in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel.
Herald (UK) columnist Father Alexander Lucie-Smith saw several reasons for hope
about Anglican-Catholic relations after the meeting between the Holy Father and
Archbishop Welby. He
The Catholics and the Anglicans are now more or less singing from
the same hymn sheet when it comes to morality. There are several Anglican
theologians (as well as some nominal Catholics) who are not doing so, but the
Anglican mainstream seems sound on many of the great matters of the day, such
as the rights of the unborn, and questions to do with embryonic “research”.
Likewise the question of poverty. When Justin Welby says the following, it
could be a Catholic speaking:
“That way forward must reflect the self-giving love of Christ, our
bearing of his Cross, and our dying to ourselves so as to live with Christ,
which will show itself in hospitality and love for the poor. We must love those
who seek to oppose us, and love above all those tossed aside even whole
nations by the present crises around the world. Also, even as we speak, our
brothers and sisters in Christ suffer terribly from violence, oppression and
war, from bad government and unjust economic systems. If we are not their
advocates in the name of Christ, who will be?”
Not only is this an eloquent exposition of Catholic Social
Teaching and moral theology, it goes deeper still, reflecting a lived
spirituality that Catholics will recognise. The Cross is real, it is clear, and
there is no genuine Christian life without the Cross. This makes a pleasant
antidote to those who would give us easy answers or who would tell us that there
can be social progress, or progress of any kind, without self-sacrifice.
Indeed, in his remarks, Justin Welby talks of his spiritual links
with various Catholics and in particular with exponents of the new religious
movements. This, I find, is immensely encouraging. It is not what ARCIC had in
mind in fact it springs from the renaissance of the Evangelical movement in
the Church of England more than anything else but it is fruit worth having
all the same, perhaps more than the fruit that ARCIC envisaged. For God, in the
end, loves to surprise us.
William Oddie, also writing for the Catholic Herald, is
much less optimistic:
The danger is not that the visit is happening at all: it is that
because of the way in which it is taking place, and
because of the very dodgy way the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity is handling it, the impression is being given that in some way the Pope
and the archbishop are equivalent figures, and that Welby’s beliefs about his
Church and his office are understood AND RECOGNISED by the Holy See.
It’s essential to remember what
those claims actually are. Catholics believe that Henry VIII invented a new
church called the Church of England. But that’s not what Anglicanism claims at
all. Anglicanism claims that it is continuous with what came before, that it is
THE SAME CHURCH as the Ecclesia Anglicana of the Middle Ages and that
Archbishop Welby is the direct successor of St Augustine of Canterbury: the
Wikipedia article on him begins with the words “Justin Portal Welby … is the
105th and current Archbishop of Canterbury”. The liturgical book of the church
which Catholics believe was newly invented but which Anglicans believe is
England’s historic Catholic Church, reformed not invented by the Tudors,
described itself as The Book of Common Prayer and Administration
of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of THE CHURCH according to the
use of the Church of England (My
The consequence of all that is
the Anglican claim, explicit or implicit, is that the Catholic Church in
England is not what it says it is, because it’s the Church of England which IS
in England what the Catholic Church claims to be. In less ecumenical times, the
English Catholic Church was sometimes derided as “the Italian mission”.
Those claims are soft-pedalled
now, but they are still there. Their modern equivalent is that Anglican
bishops, and archbishops, are in some way equivalent and equal to the Catholic
bishops: that in these ecumenical times they are somehow in business together.
Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ public address at
the meeting with Archbishop Welby; the archbishop’s response can be read here.
Grace, Dear Friends,
the happy occasion of our first meeting, I make my own the words of Pope Paul
VI, when he addressed Archbishop Michael Ramsey during his historic visit in
1966: “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. Eph 2:19-20).
know that during Your Grace’s installation in Canterbury Cathedral you
remembered in prayer the new Bishop of Rome. I am deeply grateful to you and
since we began our respective ministries within days of each other, I think we
will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer.
history of relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church is
long and complex, and not without pain. Recent decades, however, have been
marked by a journey of rapprochement and fraternity, and for this we give
heartfelt thanks to God. This journey has been brought about both via
theological dialogue, through the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic
International Commission, and via the growth of cordial relations at every
level through shared daily lives in a spirit of profound mutual respect and
sincere cooperation. In this regard, I am very pleased to welcome alongside you
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. These firm bonds of friendship have
enabled us to remain on course even when difficulties have arisen in our
theological dialogue that were greater than we could have foreseen at the start
of our journey.
am grateful, too, for the sincere efforts the Church of England has made to
understand the reasons that led my Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to provide a
canonical structure able to respond to the wishes of those groups of Anglicans
who have asked to be received collectively into the Catholic Church: I am sure
this will enable the spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions that form
the Anglican patrimony to be better known and appreciated in the Catholic world.
meeting is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the search for unity among
Christians is prompted not by practical considerations, but by the will of the
Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made us his brothers and sisters, children of
the One Father. Hence the prayer that we make today is of fundamental
prayer gives a fresh impulse to our daily efforts to grow towards unity, which
are concretely expressed in our cooperation in various areas of daily life.
Particularly important among these is our witness to the reference to God and
the promotion of Christian values in a world that seems at times to call into
question some of the foundations of society, such as respect for the sacredness
of human life or the importance of the institution of the family built on
marriage, a value that you yourself have had occasion to recall recently.
there is the effort to achieve greater social justice, to build an economic
system that is at the service of man and promotes the common good. Among our
tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry
of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that
seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.
know that Your Grace is especially sensitive to all these questions, in which
we share many ideas, and I am also aware of your commitment to foster
reconciliation and resolution of conflicts between nations. In this regard,
together with Archbishop Nichols, you have urged the authorities to find a
peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict such as would guarantee the security
of the entire population, including the minorities, not least among whom are
the ancient local Christian communities. As you yourself have observed, we
Christians bring peace and grace as a treasure to be offered to the world, but
these gifts can bear fruit only when Christians live and work together in
harmony. This makes it easier to contribute to building relations of respect
and peaceful coexistence with those who belong to other religious traditions,
and with non-believers.
The unity we so earnestly long for is a gift that comes from above and
it is rooted in our communion of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy
Spirit. As Christ himself promised, “where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Let us travel the path towards
unity, fraternally united in charity and with Jesus Christ as our constant
point of reference. In our worship of Jesus Christ we will find the foundation
and raison d’être of our journey. May the merciful Father hear and grant the
prayers that we make to him together. Let us place all our hope in him who “is
able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).