Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis celebrate closer Anglican-Catholic relationship

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[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The historic first public meeting between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation will be celebrated by the current Pope and Archbishop when they meet next week in Rome, some 50 years on from the first meeting. It was a milestone in ecumenical relations when Archbishop Michael Ramsey paid an official visit to Pope Paul VI in 1966. The visit sent shockwaves around the world when Pope Paul presented Archbishop Ramsey with his episcopal ring. Next week’s meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin will be the third meeting between the pair – a sign of how normal the relationship between the two churches has become.

The relationship between the two churches had been thawing in advance of the 1966 meeting. In 1960 Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher paid a private visit to Pope John XXIII in Rome; and the following year Canon Bernard Pawley was appointed as the Archbishops of Canterbury’s and York’s representative to the Holy See. Anglicans were invited to observe the Second Vatican Council, when it met from 1962 to 1965; and it was felt that “a formal line of contact needed to be put in place.”

In 1996, while in Rome for that first public meeting, Archbishop Michael opened the Anglican Centre in Rome – a permanent Anglican presence which has provided a formal link between the two churches for the past 50 years.

At the same time, Pope Paul and Archbishop Michael issued a common declaration in which they agreed “to inaugurate a serious dialogue . . . which, founded on the Gospels and the ancient common tradition, may lead to the unity for which Christ prayed.” That led to the creation the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic), which was responsible for theological conversations between the two churches.

In 2000, Archbishop George Carey and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, convoked a conference of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to discern the progress made in theological conversations, and whether closer co-operation could be developed between the two traditions. That was the beginning of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (Iarccum).

The 50 years of “closer and deeper relationships” between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church is being celebrated in a week-long summit beginning today in Canterbury and ending next Friday in Rome. The summit will involve 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops from around the world who have been selected by Iarccum to “work together in joint mission” and to “look ahead to opportunities for greater unity.” read full story here

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