Ramsey Meets Pope in Sistine Chapel

23 March 1966 • Persistent link: iarccum.org/?p=2553

Pope Paul VI today received the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, for the first official meeting between the heads of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches since the 16th century.

Several hours before the historic meeting in the Vatican, three Protestant demonstrators from Britain heckled the archbishop at a Holy Communion service in the All Saints Anglican church in Rome.

The three, two of them Baptist ministers, stood up at the completion of Ramsey’s sermon and exposed aprons emblazoned, “Archbishop a Traitor to Protestant Britain.”

Ministers are Ejected

Italian plainclothesman and members of the entourage traveling with Dr. Ramsey moved in and swiftly ejected the demonstrators.

The archbishop arrived for the epochal Vatican meeting at 9:45 a.m. (2:45 a.m. Chicago time). Papal aides ushered him from his limousine [into] the famed Sistine chapel where popes are elected.

Pope Paul entered the chapel at 10 a.m. The two church leaders walked together to gilt chairs on a raised platform at the far end of the chapel and sat down to begin their ceremonial meeting.

Visit of Friendship

The pontiff on Sunday described the forthcoming occasion as “not yet a visit of perfect union,” but added the meeting was a “visit of friendship and introduction to union.”

The archbishop was heckled on his departure from London yesterday and on his arrival in Rome by a small group of Irish and British Protestants.

On the jet liner that brought the archbishop to Rome was a group of four Protestant ministers who opposed the visit as “an act of treachery,” a phrase that kept recurring during the heckling yesterday and today.

Two of the ministers were barred from entering Italy. Three hours after their arrival, the Rev. John Wylie and the Rewv. Ian Paisley, both Free Presbyterians from Northern Ireland, were bundled onto another plane and flown back to England.

Ordered by Ministry

Frontier police acted on instructions of he interior ministry, which said it aimed both at preventing possible disorder and avoiding an offense to an official visitor to a foreign head of state, the pope.

During the flight British security men blocked the entrance to the first class compartment, preventing the protesting ministers from addressing the archbishop.

Dr. Ramsey was greeted at the airport by two envoys of Pope Paul — Archbishop Angelo Dell’acqua, substitute Vatican secretary of state, and Bishop Jan J. Willebrands, secretary of the Vatican secretariat for Christian unity.

Will Pray Together

The Anglican archbishop, smiling constantly, said he was “happy and cheerful and full of hope.”

Tomorrow the pope and archbishop, who represents the world’s 45 million Anglicans, will pray together and embrace in a symbolic kiss of peace.

The dissenting ministers called the kiss of peace “an insult to the glorious stand of the reformers.”

Dr. Ramsey requested the meeting with the pope in November. No startling results are expected from the talks, but the archbishop has said he wants to discuss “practical matters which can hurt feelings.” These are expected to include mixed marriages, priestly orders, and doctrine.

On his arrival Dr. Ramsey said the world would have to “wait and see” what meaning his talks with the pope would have for Christian unity.