Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The "journey of rapprochement and fraternity" that the Church of England and the Church of Rome are undertaking, after a history of relations that has been "long and complex, and not without pain", is marked both by he theological dialogue and collaboration " n 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,". There is also the shared commitment to greater social justice, to an economic system that places itself at the service of man and to the common good and the search for a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict, which allows the Christian minority to gift the peace of which they are bearers.
What approaches Catholics and Anglicans, but also the differences that still exist were indicated by Pope Francis who this morning met with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby. Their meeting was articulated, including a private audience at the library, official speeches and the exchange of gifts, and finally a moment of prayer in the Redemptoris Mater chapel.
The relations between Anglicans and Catholics experienced a breakthrough with the "historic meeting", recalled by the Pope, between Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966. Since then, the "journey of rapprochement and fraternity" was 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", "even when difficulties have arisen in our theological dialogue that were greater than we could have foreseen at the start of our journey". The presence of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, who accompanied the visit of Welby, was also significant. For his part, while not hiding the differences between Anglicans and Catholics, the Anglican primate, he added, quoting Benedict XVI, that the "goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey."
In his speech, the Pope also recalled Welby's intervention " 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".
"As even as we speak -
said the Anglican primate - 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
In the words of Francis, "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", is also a positive sign on the journey,
"Today's meeting - said the Pope - Today's 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 importance.. This 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."
"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.".