On Monday thirty-six bishops of the Catholic and Anglican churches met in Canterbury to start three days of celebration for the 50 years anniversary of official dialogue between the two churches, today the party will arrive in Rome. The dialogue officially began in 1966 with the join declaration signed by Paul VI and Michael Ramsey.
This pilgrimage is promoted by the Iarcuum, the commission for unity and mission instituted in 2000, and the Anglican Centre in Rome, the two leaders are now the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Regina, Donald Bolen, and the Anglican Suffragan Bishop of Europe, David Hamid. The bishops come from 18 different countries and their pilgrimage will have its end in a beautiful celebration of Choral Vespers to be held in San Gregorio al Celio, the church of Pope Gregory the Great in Rome (the Pope who sent Saint Augustine to Canterbury). The service will be celebrated jointly by Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis.
Iarcuum met in Canterbury to analyse the work that the two churches have accomplished in the past 50 years, to rejoice in the common cores and to continue the fruitful dialogue concerning holy orders, the role of Mary, ecclesiology, of the Eucharist, etc. Then, the prelates met in the Cathedral, on the tomb of Thomas Becket, where in 1982, John Paul II met with Archbishop Robert Runcie. The dialogue informally began in 1960, when John XIII had a private meeting with Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher. On 24 March 1966 Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey met in Rome to sign a joint declaration, it was the birth of Arcic and of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Canterbury's embassy to the Holy See. On that occasion the Pope made the inspiring move of passing his ring to the Archbishop.
This Roman pilgrimage wants to be an occasion to celebrate this dialogue on a pastoral level. The several bishops have just arrived in Rome and will pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Tomorrow, on the 5th of October, there will be a series of lectures and conferences about our relationship at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Finally, the day will culminate in a service of Choral Vespers, sung by the choirs of the Sistine Chapel and Canterbury Cathedral, at San Gregorio al Celio, where Saint Augustine of Canterbury started his journey to England in 595. Here Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin will pray and lead the service together. For the bishops and others the day will end in a great Gala dinner at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj on the Corso, home of the Anglican Centre, kindly hosted by this old princely family since its birth. The Centre, the Anglican Communion's embassy to Rome, has been since its creation a great instrument of unity and ecumenism and it has served both on a high level and on a more pastoral level in which pilgrims of all faiths can come and learn more about Anglicanism both from the use of its chapel and that of its immense library, therefore it will be a great occasion to celebrate this 50th anniversary. To learn more about the Anglican Centre and its mission, Click here!