Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury to commission bishops for unified mission

19 January 2024 • Persistent link: iarccum.org/?p=4515

Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury will jointly commission bishops from the Anglican and Catholic traditions for a shared mission and witness during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This event is part of the Growing Together summit, taking place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 22 to 29 in Rome and Canterbury. The summit during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an international Christian ecumenical observance, will bring together over 50 bishops from Anglican and Catholic traditions, representing 27 countries. The bishops will visit holy sites, engage in ecumenical discussions, and reflect on ways to grow together in joint witness and mission globally.

The commissioning ceremony near the tomb of the Apostle Paul will be a significant moment symbolizing the bonds between Anglicans and Catholics and promoting further ecumenical dialogue. Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury will commission the bishops, sending them out in pairs, to be witnesses to Christian Unity.

The bishops will also explore St. Peter’s Basilica with a guided tour and attend an Anglican Choral Evensong service; visit the Church of San Bartolomeo, where the Archbishop of Canterbury will lead and preach at a sung Anglican Eucharist; visit the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, the place from where the first Archbishop of Canterbury was sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great in 597.

In Rome on January 25, Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury will come together for vespers, marking the conclusion of the week of prayer as well as celebrating the strong sense of fraternal charity among bishops from their respective churches.

The summit is organized by IARCCUM, the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, dedicated to fostering ecumenical dialogue between the two traditions.

Read the rest of this article in La Croix International

Pope Francis

Francis, as Bishop of Rome, has spearheaded many ecumenical initiates. During a prayer service in Rome in 2019, the pope and Archbishop Welby sent forth a similar group of 19 Anglican and 19 Catholic bishops.

Pope Francis’ also undertook an ecumenical peace pilgrimage to South Sudan with Archbishop Welby and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland. The Vatican visit of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, Egypt, and Pope Francis’ announcement that he added the 21 Coptic martyrs murdered by Islamic State terrorists in 2015 to the Roman Martyrology as well as the ecumenical prayer vigil that preceded the opening of the Synod of Bishops on synodality, are other highlights of his ecumenical endeavours.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity “octave” runs from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair on Jan. 18 to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on Jan. 25. The ecumenical initiative is promoted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission.

The chosen theme for this annual prayer octave is “You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbour as yourself” (Lk 10:27) developed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, Protestant Churches, ecumenical groups and the Chemin Neuf Community, in Burkina Faso. These materials encompass an ecumenical opening prayer service, biblical reflections, prayers spanning eight days, and other elements of worship.

The reflections delve into the discovery of our shared identity through the experience of God’s love. The specific focus on Burkina Faso underscores the importance of placing love at the forefront of the pursuit of peace and reconciliation.

The introduction in the text emphasizes that this quest is often hindered by the erosion of values, a diminished sense of humanity, and a lack of concern for the common good, probity, integrity, and patriotism. “The search for reconciliation has also been weakened by spiritual impoverishment and by the pursuit of easy gains,” reads the introduction. “Faced with these realities, the imperative to witness to the love of God is all the more pressing.”

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was started in 1908 by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement as the Octave of Christian Unity. Pope Pius X gave it his blessing and Pope Benedict XV in 1916 extended its observance to the universal church.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the observance has been jointly organized by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican’s now Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity. Starting in 1966, collaboration between the World Council of Churches and the Holy See led to the creation of a common international text based on themes proposed and developed by ecumenical groups worldwide.