Rome & Canterbury: Bishop Bauerschmidt on the IARCCUM summit

This January, I participated in a unique pilgrimage and summit, “Growing Together,” sponsored by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). The event brought together 50 paired bishops, both Anglican and Roman Catholic, from 27 different countries to offer an ecumenical witness of solidarity between the two worldwide communions and to underscore the progress that has been made in relations between them. The pilgrimage began in Rome, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in this historic Christian centre, and then moved to the close of Canterbury Cathedral for its conclusion.

IARCCUM practices what is sometimes called the Lund principle: churches are called to act together in all those areas where conviction does not require them to act separately. If there are things that we can do together, we should be doing them. The pilgrimage and summit were intended to offer a common witness of Christians, in the midst of deep divisions in our world and enormous difficulties facing the human family, and to challenge our churches to work more closely together in those areas where we are able to do so.

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To understand the significance of this pilgrimage, it is necessary to look back at the origins of IARCCUM and the progress of ecumenical relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church over the last several decades. Following the signing of a historic common declaration by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966, the two communions have engaged in theological dialogue through the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, now in its third iteration (ARCIC III). Even as theological dialogue began, and ARCIC began to produce agreed statements, there was consciousness (expressed in the 1968 Malta Report) of a need for a group of bishops to address practical issues of cooperation.

A gathering of bishops from the two communions in Mississauga, Canada, in 2000 advanced the 1996 call by Pope John Paul II and Archbishop George Carey for a consultation on the future progress of relations. Out of their shared prayer and conversation, the bishops issued a communiqué, “Communion in Mission,” that recognised the work of ARCIC and the “very impressive degree of agreement in faith” (CIM 4) existing between the churches and called for establishing a “Joint Unity Commission.” The commission was to promote the reception of the ARCIC documents and the practical consequences of the “fundamental communion of a common faith and a common baptism” (CIM 5) shared by the two communions. In 2002, the commission was endorsed by the Pope and the Archbishop, and became known as IARCCUM.

IARCCUM has no exact parallel in other bilateral ecumenical relationships between churches. First of all, it is a group of bishops, brought together not by their particular theological acumen or knowledge of ecumenism, but principally in their role as leaders. Second, it stands alongside ARCIC, and no other dialogue that the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion is engaged in has such an analogue. Though promotion of the work of the theological dialogue between the two communions is part of their charge, the focus of IARCCUM is on common mission, the call to work together in areas where the churches perceive a common call. Third, the paired bishops are drawn from across the world, which speaks of the global reach of the Church’s mission, and of the many places in the world where our churches are present.

In 2016, I participated in the first IARCCUM pilgrimage, which began in Canterbury and ended in Rome. Thirty-six bishops from 19 countries and regions participated. The occasion commemorated the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the 50th anniversary of the 1966 meeting that led to the beginning of ARCIC. As in Mississauga in 2000, the bishops joined in conversation and worship, and issued an agreed statement, in the form of an appeal to both of our communities. A high point was when we were commissioned by Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis in a liturgy presided over by both in the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, the monastic community in Rome from which Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury on his mission to evangelise the English. At the end of the liturgy, the bishops processed out of the church in witness to our common mission. It was a striking testimony to our common call to mission.

The 2024 pilgrimage and summit included more bishops, with a wider geographical reach. In contrast to the 2016 pilgrimage, we began in Rome and moved to Canterbury in the course of our week together, in some sense walking in the steps of St. Augustine of Canterbury himself. Once again, our meeting was presided over by Archbishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid, co-chairs of IARCCUM. The Rev. Martin Browne, OSB, from the Dicastery for Christian Unity, and Dr. Christopher Wells, Director of Unity, Faith, and Order for the Anglican Communion Office, acted as IARCCUM co-secretaries. As outlined by our co-chairs, the goals of this pilgrimage and summit were to build relationships between the bishops, both in the pairs but also more broadly; to share in prayer and the experience of pilgrimage to these historic Christian sites; to explore the themes of justice, synodality, and safeguarding; and to be sent in mission together.

While in Rome, the bishops were lodged at the Casa Bonus Pastor, not far from the Vatican, which gave opportunity for them to share meals and conversation. In Canterbury, most of us were hosted at the Lodge on the cathedral close. I was paired with the Most Rev. John Michael Botean, bishop of the Eparchy of St. George, based in Canton, Ohio. Bishop John Michael leads the North American jurisdiction of the Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church, a church in full communion with the Holy See but with an ancient liturgy and traditions of its own that differ significantly from those of the Latin Rite. The two of us have come to know each other over the last seven years of being co-chairs of the Anglican-Roman Catholic (ARC-USA) bilateral theological dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. This was a chance for us to deepen our relationship and find new ways to offer common witness.

Together, the bishops shared in significant liturgies. On the first evening of the summit in Rome, on Tuesday, the bishops gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica for Anglican Evensong in the Chapel of the Choir, where the liturgy of the hours is normally celebrated at the Basilica. The choirs and clergy of the two Anglican parishes in the city of Rome combined with a number of other friends and supporters to host this liturgy. The next morning, the bishops together attended Mass at S. Agnese in Agone, where the Catholic bishops concelebrated and the Anglican bishops came forward at Communion time for a blessing. This set a pattern for our celebrations of the Eucharist, respecting the discipline that does not yet allow Roman Catholics normally to invite Anglicans to receive Communion nor themselves to accept the eucharistic hospitality of Anglican churches.

On Thursday, we were joined by Archbishop Justin and Caroline Welby, who were guests at a private audience with Pope Francis earlier in the morning. The Archbishop was presider and preacher at an Anglican Eucharist at the Basilica di San Bartolomeo all’Isola, not only the site of an ancient temple of Asclepius (the god of medicine) in pre-Christian times, and the resting place of the relics of St. Bartholomew, but also of a new memorial to modern martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. The martyrs include the seven members of the (Anglican) Melanesian Brotherhood murdered on Guadalcanal in 2003. Archbishop Justin reminded us in his sermon, “In a time of war and persecution, one Christian of another, service is the image of Christ.”

The bishops also spent time, both in Rome and Canterbury, educating themselves on issues of common concern. Cardinal Michael Czerny of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development spoke to the bishops on Tuesday on issues of justice and peace. In the course of the week, we were briefed by some of our bishop pairs on the challenging situations in their countries, including a valuable and timely briefing from Archbishop Hosam Naoum of Jerusalem and Rafic Nahra, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel.

On Wednesday, we were hosted at the Centro Pro Unione for presentations by the Rev. Professor Paul Avis, canon theologian of the Diocese of Exeter, and Sr. Nathalie Becquart, xmcj, of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, on synodality. Thursday saw a visit to the Anglican Centre in Rome, where we were welcomed by the director, the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, for a discussion on creation and environment led by our paired bishops from Brazil, Marinez Bassotto, and Teodoro Mendes Tavares, CSSP. On Saturday, in Canterbury, we heard powerful presentations by Mandy Marshall of the Anglican Communion Office, and the Rev. Hans Zollner, SJ, of the Gregorian University on safeguarding issues in the churches.

Thursday was also the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concluded with a major ecumenical service at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, the site of St. Paul’s martyrdom. Both Pope Francis and the Archbishop addressed the congregation, and at the conclusion of the liturgy, the paired IARCCUM bishops were commissioned by the two leaders. Most notably, the pairs included two women, Bishop Bassotto from Brazil and Bishop Sally Sue Hernandez from Mexico City. Once again, as it had been for those who participated in 2016, the liturgy of commissioning was a most significant articulation of substantial theological agreement and of a shared mission in the world. Pope Francis told the assembly, “For when Christians grow in the service of God and neighbour, they also grow in reciprocal understanding,” offering a kind of summation of the ecumenical methodology of IARCCUM. During the commissioning, Archbishop Justin reminded the bishops to “bear witness to the one hope of your calling.”

On Friday morning, the bishops visited San Gregorio al Celio, the site of the earlier 2016 commissioning, and then headed to the airport for our flight to Britain. The Archbishop travelled with us back to Canterbury and was most generous with his time with us while we were in residence. Many bishops took part in the candlelit tour of Canterbury Cathedral, led by the Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Ven. Will Adam, visiting the site of St. Thomas a Becket’s martyrdom. On Saturday night the paired bishops participated in Mass at St. Thomas Becket Parish in Canterbury, with the Anglican Bishop of Quebec, Bruce Myers, preaching. On Sunday morning, Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong preached at the Eucharist at which Archbishop Justin presided. The bishops returned later that day to process at Evensong at the Cathedral and to join the Archbishop and Caroline Welby for dinner afterwards at the Old Palace.

The bishops also issued Our Common Witness, Calling and Commitment. This call, addressed to the churches, touches on themes of friendship, synodality, and shared mission. The bishops appealed to St. Gregory’s words to St. Augustine, “we are seeking in Britain brothers [and sisters] we do not know,” pointing to the renewal of ties through ecumenism that are real but have been neglected. Synodality, walking together on the way, also puts relationship at the centre of the Church’s life, referencing Pope Francis’ address at St. Paul’s: “First our brothers and sisters, then the structures.” The document concludes, “As we return to our own local churches after our pilgrimage in Rome and Canterbury, we pray that our ministry alongside one another as Catholics and Anglicans will be for the world a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the one and only Church of Christ.”

Finally, some impressions from a busy and eventful week. First, the subject of synodality took a prominent place in the plenary sessions; this is obviously a major subject of discussion within the Roman Catholic Church, on multiple levels and with a good depth of political and theological nuance and context that it would be easy for an Anglican to miss. Synodality is also part of the current agenda of ARCIC, and its next agreed statement, the result of shared reflection between the two communions, will be of great interest. Anglicans tend to congratulate themselves on their practice of synodality on the diocesan and provincial levels, but the Roman Catholic experience of synodality in a global church is one that Anglicans will profit from, if they are willing to do so.

Second, I was honestly surprised to hear bishops from Africa and Asia talk about the rise of secularism in their contexts. It was a strong enough theme to warrant mention in the bishops’ document. In the 2016 pilgrimage, there was much more discussion among the bishops about the increasing influence of Islam. Secularism in those contexts no doubt takes a different shape from that in the Northern Hemisphere, yet its recognition in discussion and in the agreed document is significant of an identifiable global phenomenon.

Third, the value of symbolic action was reaffirmed by my experience on this pilgrimage. One thinks back to Pope Paul VI’s gift of his episcopal ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey at their 1966 meeting, or Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie praying together in 1982 at the site of Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral, or the gift of a replica of the crozier of Pope Gregory given by Pope Francis to Archbishop Justin in 2016. The symbolic action that stood out most in 2024 took place at the Vespers service in the Basilica of St. Paul’s. After the Pope preached, Archbishop Justin was invited to add his own words: not included in the bulletin, but an occasion that the Archbishop rose to gracefully. The centrepiece of the event was two Christian leaders addressing divided Christians together.

Please continue to pray for the IARCCUM bishops as they continue to offer witness to our two communions’ common mission in the world.

On recognition of ministries and the IARCCUM commissioning

On January 25, at the annual ecumenical service in Rome that marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis spontaneously invited Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to offer remarks after Francis’ own homily. Archbishop Justin’s reflection constituted a second homily, though it was called a “discourse” in the Vatican media. Such an invitation had only been offered to Orthodox bishops in the past, so this marked a significant sign of welcome between two leaders who have become close collaborators in a number of projects. On previous occasions, Archbishop Justin and his predecessors had been invited to offer remarks at a later portion of the liturgy, but never immediately after the homily.

The ecumenical movement is replete with examples of healthy cooperation between churches, and kind and thoughtful words and actions. These indicate the remarkable trust and respect that has developed between the churches since the 1960s and the Second Vatican Council. However, very little account has been taken of the theological significance of such words and actions. In this blog post, I will point to some potential openings that might be emerging from contemporary Anglican-Catholic relations.

Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin began their current ministry just days apart in March 2013. Ever since, they have worked together to draw attention to the needs of refugees and migrants, to address human trafficking and slavery, and to appeal for peace. In February last year, they travelled together to South Sudan with Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland, to make a special plea for peace amid a bloody civil war.

Read the rest of this article in the One Body blog on Salt+Light Media

So, it isn’t surprising when Pope Francis greets Archbishop Justin as a friend and publicly addresses him as “my brother.” At the January ecumenical service in Rome, they commissioned 25 pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops from around the world. Calling the assembled bishops “my brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said to them:

Fourteen centuries ago, Pope Gregory the Great commissioned St. Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, and his companions, to set out from Rome to preach the joy of the Gospel to the peoples of England. Today, with gratitude to God for our sharing in the Gospel, we send you forth, beloved co-workers for the kingdom of God, so that wherever you carry out your ministry, you may together bear witness to the hope that does not deceive and the unity for which our Saviour prayed.

Archbishop Justin continued:

God reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. As we send you forth from the tomb of the apostle to the nations, we call on you to make this ministry your special care. As you preach and celebrate the sacraments with God’s holy people, bear witness to the one hope of your calling. May your ministry alongside one another as Catholics and Anglicans be for the world a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ for which we pray this day.

The 25 pairs of bishops were gathered in Rome for a summit of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), which has been mentioned before in this blog. (As a disclaimer, I should note that I am the editor of the IARCCUM website and archive at iarccum.org.) This summit was the second time the bishops gathered. In 2016, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin gathered 19 pairs, first in Canterbury to study and pray and then in Rome to continue their pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles and to be commissioned at the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio. This second time, the commissioning occurred at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, above the tomb of the great “apostle to the nations.” As the bishops were sent forth, like Augustine sent by Gregory to be apostle to the English, they continued a mission reaching back to Christ’s own sending of the apostles two-by-two (cf. Mark 6:6-13).

Fr. Martin Browne, OSB, the Vatican official responsible for dialogue with Anglicans, reflects on this moment in January by pointing to the ARCIC (Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) II document, The Gift of Authority, which states:

For the sake of koinonia [communion] and a united Christian witness to the world, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops should find ways of cooperating and developing relationships of mutual accountability in their exercise of oversight. At this new stage we have not only to do together whatever we can, but also to be together all that our existing koinonia allows (#58).

As Fr. Browne explained in an email:

The commissioning incarnates this in a very vivid way, which renders the whole thing very significant theologically. The Pope and the Archbishop were certainly doing something together in commissioning the pairs. But they were also being something together in the way that The Gift of Authority #58 envisages. They were being together all that their existing koinonia allows. They were being and acting as one. One could argue that in their joint commissioning of the IARCCUM bishops – though it was an act outside the canonical formulae and formularies of either tradition – they were effectively sharing in each other’s episcopal and primatial functions. This wasn’t the Pope commissioning the Catholic bishops and the Archbishop commissioning the Anglican ones, but the two of them commissioning the pairs. This is not just a memorable gesture but is rather revolutionary. Anglican clergy do not normally get commissioned by the Bishop of Rome, and Catholic clergy do not normally get commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, after all!

A real but incomplete communion

Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, noted in #8 that the Church of Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church.” As we have explored in this blog in the past, the Council taught that “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure.” This has been understood as an affirmation that Christ and the Holy Spirit are active and present in mysterious ways in other Christian communities. Even as the Council was reticent to call these communities “church” in the theological sense, it clearly affirmed that these elements constitute a “real but incomplete communion” with the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, insisted that these ecclesial elements:

“constitute the objective basis of the communion, albeit imperfect, which exists between them and the Catholic Church. To the extent that these elements are found in other Christian Communities, the one Church of Christ is effectively present in them” ( #11).

This language of “real but incomplete communion” has provided a basis for substantial ecumenical dialogue and convergence on matters that had previously divided the churches. We have indeed found considerable agreement on doctrinal matters, including baptism, eucharist, justification by faith, Mary and the communion of saints, the church, and various aspects of ministry. However, one problem remains intractable: recognition of sacramental orders. To date, the Catholic Church has not been able to articulate a theological basis for recognizing the sacramental character of ordination in any of the churches of the Reformation or post-Reformation traditions. Thus, a full recognition of these churches has been impossible. Despite various efforts in dialogue, Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 judgement of Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void” remains an impenetrable barrier. A recent statement from the Malines Conversations Group, Sorores in Spe, holds out hope of some further movement in this regard.

My bishop and IARCCUM co-chair Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, highlighted the ecumenical challenge of recognizing sacramental orders in a keynote address for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. He noted that Catholics are able to work closely together with Anglican and other ecumenical partners, cooperation rooted in a nuanced recognition of elements of ministry and sanctification.” However, such recognition of the dialogue partner “ought to translate into a positive recognition at least paralleling the ecclesiological recognition communicated in describing our relationship in terms of real but incomplete communion. But when the discussion turns to the validity of orders, we lack a vocabulary and a theological category to introduce that nuance” (“Towards Reconciliation: Recent and Future Steps as we Mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation” in Ecumenical Trends 47, no.2, Feb. 2018, p. 1-10).

Symbolic gifts

In 1966, just months after the end of Vatican II, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, travelled to Rome to visit Pope Paul VI. As they met, the pope removed his own episcopal ring and placed it on the finger of the archbishop. No words were spoken, no explanation given. But, for churches that understand the depth of sacramental signs, the gesture communicated more than was possible in words. In subsequent visits, popes have given gifts of various kinds, always symbolizing a common ministry and spiritual closeness: chalices and patens, stoles, pectoral crosses, Bibles, and prayer books. In January 2016, as Archbishop Justin prepared for a difficult meeting with the Anglican Primates, Pope Francis loaned him the head of the crozier of St. Gregory the Great. Gregory was the pope who sent Augustine to Canterbury in 597 AD, and a crozier is a symbol of episcopal authority. During their meeting, the crozier was placed in the midst of the Primates and reportedly served as a reminder of their common missionary roots. Later that year, Pope Francis gave Archbishop Justin a replica of the crozier that now resides in Canterbury.

Effective ministry and affective recognition

Whenever bishops and leaders of other churches visit Rome, they are received as heads of churches. They are seated in places of honour during papal liturgies and addressed by the titles accorded them by their own church. Indeed, no distinction is made between men and women in these roles. After the 2016 IARCCUM Summit, there were some quiet complaints that the Anglicans had not included any female bishops among their complement, although the choice of bishops was probably made in each Anglican province and not centrally. Perhaps some critics thought that the absence was Rome’s doing. Yet, less than a month later, Pope Francis stood together with Archbishop Antje Jackelén of Uppsala at the ecumenical service in Lund to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and together they offered the concluding blessing to the congregation. This year, two women were among the Anglican complement at the IARCCUM Summit: Archbishop Marinez Bassotto, the Primate of Brazil, and Bishop Sally Sue Hernández of Mexico. The increase in number reflects a similar increase in the number of female bishops in the Anglican Communion.

Another female Anglican bishop was in Rome just a week later. Bishop Jo Bailey Wells, deputy secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, was invited to speak to the Council of Cardinals about the development of women’s ministries in the Anglican Communion.

It should be noted that considerable provisions in the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity’s Ecumenical Directory permit the sharing of spiritual activities and resources between Catholics and other Christian partners (#102-142). While noting appropriate limits on sacramental life together, the Directory identifies that the principles for spiritual sharing begin with our common baptism and the “real but incomplete communion” between the churches. In a rarely utilized but significant provision, the Ecumenical Directory authorizes:

If priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries” (#137).

As an example, during the recent IARCCUM Summit, Pope Francis gave permission for Archbishop Justin to celebrate the Eucharist at the ancient church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola, the Sanctuary of the New Martyrs. As a side note: the focus on contemporary martyrs shared between the two churches was particularly poignant as the Anglican and Catholic bishops from the Solomon Islands shared about the seven Anglican martyrs of the Melanesian Brotherhood who are commemorated in San Bartolomeo. According to the ancient axiom, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” ecumenical work on common martyrology also signifies a growing recognition of one another as church.

In addition, the Directory provides for occasions when other Christian ministers are present during Catholic liturgies or for ecumenical worship in Catholic churches. Visiting clergy may wear appropriate vestments:

“Where there is a common agreement among the participants, those who have a function in a ceremony may use the dress proper to their ecclesiastical rank and to the nature of the celebration” (#113). “In a Catholic liturgical celebration, ministers of other Churches and ecclesial Communities may have the place and liturgical honours proper to their rank and their role, if this is judged desirable” (#119).

In local ecumenical contexts, cooperation and informal recognition are common. In many towns and neighbourhoods, priests participate in local ministerial associations with clergy from a variety of traditions. Bishops routinely meet with other local church leaders and issue public statements with their colleagues. In many cases, these meetings and public statements include churches with whom Catholics might find considerable challenge, yet as we’ve explored throughout this blog series, it is possible to find consensus on matters of shared concern.

In my own experience of local ecumenism, I have found that it is invariably true that churches with bishops work well together, and that those governed by councils or committees (a form of collective episcopé) are usually late additions to projects already undertaken. This is not from any animus against non-episcopal churches, but simply because relationships develop more easily between churches when their leaders know one another and can develop personal trust. Bishops frequently operate from a position of affective recognition. Bishops may also have the authority to make commitments on behalf of their community in ways that are slower and more cumbersome for churches that exercise communal discernment. However, as Archbishop Bolen explained in his keynote address in 2017:

I believe that an adequate theological account of ministry in other Christian communities is part of the unfinished work of the [Second Vatican] Council. I trust that the Holy Spirit is leading us in that regard, and it is my fervent prayer that soon we will be able to take some steps towards the recognition of ministry in our Western dialogue partners.

Taking the IARCCUM work home

Bishop Bruce Myers, the Anglican bishop of Québec, went to the 2024 IARCCUM Summit along with Catholic Bishop Martin Laliberté of Trois-Rivières. Bishop Myers is also the Anglican co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada. Before being elected bishop, he served as the ecumenical officer for the Anglican Church of Canada. I asked him to reflect on the experience. He writes:

The challenge with all such gatherings is how to carry something of this remarkable experience of learning and communion back to the people we serve and serve with — some of whom will be sceptical or cynical about such endeavours. And, for the pairs of bishops, there’s also the challenge of how to sustain the momentum and enthusiasm generated at the summit/pilgrimage now that we’ve returned to the routines and demands of our usual ministries.

During the Summit, the pairs of bishops had time to work together to develop concrete ways to move IARCCUM’s vision and work forward in their respective countries and contexts. Among the commitments Bishops Laliberté and Myers have made are:

  • “to find ways to present together the experiences and outcomes of the summit/pilgrimage to our respective assemblies/houses of bishops;
  • to try to more closely connect IARCCUM’s work with that of the national Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogues in Canada;
  • and to promote joint Anglican-Catholic clergy retreats across the country, not to focus on an explicitly ecumenical topic, but rather on a spiritual, biblical, or theological theme on which we already have a common understanding, as a way of witnessing to the substantial unity in faith we already share.”

For more information, I encourage you to read the IARCCUM Bishops’ Call: Our Common Witness, Calling and Commitment.

Nicholas Jesson is the ecumenical officer for the Archdiocese of Regina. He is currently a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada and of the Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith & Witness, editor of the Margaret O’Gara Ecumenical Dialogues Collection, and editor of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue archive IARCCUM.org. He was ecumenical officer for the Diocese of Saskatoon (1994-99 & 2008-17), executive director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (1994-99), and member of the Roman Catholic-United Church of Canada Dialogue (2012-20).

Kilkenny bishops reflect on special international Anglican-Roman Catholic summit

Two Kilkenny bishops have attended a summit organised by IARCCUM (The International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission) in Rome and Canterbury. Bishop Niall Coll (Bishop of Ossory) and Bishop Adrian Wilkinson (Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) were the two Irish bishops asked to attend the summit. It was the first time since 2016 that IARCCUM was convened. On this occasion over 50 bishops from 27 different countries, mostly in national pairs, spent between January 22-29 together to listen, pray and discuss how growing together as churches might strengthen our joint witness and mission in the world. Here, they reflect on their pilgrimage together:

Visiting holy sites to pray in both Rome and Canterbury was very much part of the process. On January 23 it was moving for us to be part of an Anglican Choral Evensong being held for only the second time ever in the Choir Chapel of St Peter’s Basilica. The meeting coincided in part with the annual Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity which always ends on January 25 when our churches mark the Feast of the Conversation of St Paul.

Appropriately that evening all the bishops attended Catholic vespers at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, where the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury both preached and commissioned the IARCCUM delegates in their pairs for their work. For us and many of those attending the liturgy, it was encouraging to observe both church leaders clearly at ease in each other’s company and both committed to the goal of Christian unity.

Earlier that day the Archbishop of Canterbury had presided at an Anglican Eucharist in the basilica of San Bartolomeo. Before the service he and the participating bishops, toured the Sanctuary of the New Martyrs, which is a memorial in the crypt of this church. Opened in March last year, this permanent exhibition commemorates the stories of the Christian martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Here the vestments worn by Archbishop Oscar Romero and a book owned by Maksymilian Kolbe were on display. Martyrs from churches other than the Roman Catholic Church are also commemorated in the sanctuary.  Among them are the seven martyrs of the Melanesian Brotherhood, an Anglican religious order, who were murdered by rebels in the Solomon Islands in 2003. One of those attending IARCCUM was the Anglican Archbishop Leonard Dawea from the Solomon Islands. As a young man, he spent twelve years as a member of the Melanesian Brotherhood and so knew some of those martyred. At the end of the service, the Archbishop of Canterbury laid a wreath at the chapel where the martyrs of Oceania are commemorated.

On the last day in Rome, the bishops visited the church where Pope Gregory the Great commissioned St Augustine (the First Archbishop of Canterbury) to convert the Anglo-Saxons. From there they made the same journey he did, albeit using the comfort and speed of Easyjet!

The second phase of the summit was based in Canterbury and most of the delegates stayed at Cathedral Lodge in the shadow of the great cathedral. There we had time to reflect on many of the issues discussed and began to prepare the final text of a statement setting out our aims and achievements.

We had heard the contributions from other bishops living in Brazil on the need to defend the rights of indigenous people living in the rain forest, from bishops in the Middle East on how the Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem is continuing to support a hospital in war torn Gaza, on the challenge of secularism in some parts of the world, as well as the contrasting challenge of religious fundamentalism in other countries, and these issued were reflected in the text of our statement. As the week unfolded, it was obvious that some of our episcopal colleagues were returning to situations of religious discrimination if not persecution, as well as places of political instability; all very far removed from our experience in Kilkenny.

For us as bishops from Ireland, the summit’s focus on partnership and friendship was best summed up by Cardinal Stephen Chow Saau-yan (Bishop of Hong Kong), who preached at the final Sunday Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral. He said:

“We Anglicans and Roman Catholics are called to be Jesus partners, individually and collectively. The twelve apostles and disciples were not called to form camps, working for their own missions, or competing against each other. They were called to become an assembly, a community, a communion, praying and discerning, teaching and serving for the mission of our Triune God.”

The memory of IARCCUM will live long with us and our hope is that it will be a stimulus for continued fruitful ecumenical engagement, not only between the two of us as friends and fellow bishops, but for the wider diocese and church too.

Bishop Peter Collins reflects on summit in Rome and Canterbury

I was recently appointed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to become a member of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). 25 Catholic bishops and 25 Anglican bishops from across the world gathered in Rome to be commissioned jointly by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, the conclusion of the Octave of Prayer for the Unity of Christians.

The Catholic and Anglican bishops were paired from each nation, I being united with Bishop Stephen Race of Beverely who was representing the Church of England. We assembled in Rome on Monday January 22 and transferred the conference to Canterbury on Friday January 26, concluding our deliberations on Monday January 29.

The experience was intense, enlightening and fruitful. Each pairing was charged with sharing their national experience of ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. This sharing proved to be a most powerful experience.

We received first hand witness regarding the effects of warfare in Sudan, South Sudan and Israel/Gaza. Accounts were given of the particular challenges faced by the Christian communities in Pakistan, Myanmar and China. The devastating impact of climatic changes were also addressed through presentations from Brazil and Polynesia/Micronesia. The universal challenges of deepening secularism on every continent were discussed in some detail.

Whatever divides the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion remains less than what unites us. The clear guiding principle of the conference and the guiding principle for all shared action is that we should undertake whatever we can together, except where there is a clear point of division that would preclude such an approach.

Every stage and element of the gatherings in Rome and Canterbury held particular significance. For only the second time in history was Anglican Choral Evensong celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica. Archbishop Justin celebrated the Anglican Eucharist in the Church of St Bartolomeo all’Isola where the Sanctuary of the New Martyrs is housed. Our visit to this Sanctuary left a deep impression upon us all, for we saw displayed a stunning representation of the sacrifice of so many Catholics, Anglicans and other Christians from across the expanse of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The formal commissioning of IARCCUM members took place on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. Pope Francis presided at Solemn Vespers in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury and in the presence of many members of the College of Cardinals and Prelates from many of the Eastern Rites and the Orthodox Churches. Each pairing of bishops were greeted and blessed by Pope and Anglican Primate. The Roman element of the conference concluded with us gathering for Morning Prayer at the Church of St Gregorio al Celio, the place where Pope St Gregory the Great commissioned St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, to undertake the great mission to the nation of Angles in this island of ours. Bishop Stephen and I were charged with the privilege of reading an extract from the address delivered by Pope Gregory the Great.

Our arrival in Canterbury began with an evocative Candlelit Tour of the Cathedral. Standing on the spot where St Thomas of Canterbury was martyred obviously left a deep impression. We attended the Anglican Eucharist at the Cathedral on Sunday morning and Choral Evensong in the afternoon, the day and the conference concluding with a formal reception and dinner at the Old Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop.

The final agreed statement that was crafted at the conclusion of our deliberations outlines a clear intent for the future. I ask you all to pray for the sustenance of a shared Christian witness in the midst of an increasingly secular environment, the development of a serious and honest dialogue within the Christian family and the enhancement of cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion – internationally, nationally and locally.

Second IARCCUM Summit takes place in Rome and Canterbury

The second summit meeting of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) took place in Rome and Canterbury from 22 to 29 January 2024. IARCCUM is an official commission of the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church, established to deepen the relationship between Anglicans and Catholics and promote shared mission, based on the significant degree of theological agreement that has been reached over sixty years of dialogue. The first IARCCUM summit took place in 2016. The 2024 event, with the theme Growing Together, gathered pairs of bishops, Catholic and Anglican, from 27 different countries around the world.

The summit began in Rome on 22 January, with introductions to the background and history of the commission and presentations by each bishop-pair on the ecclesial and ecumenical situations in their countries. On Tuesday 23 January, the Anglican office of Choral Evensong was celebrated in the Chapel of the Choir in St Peter’s Basilica. Other elements of the Rome phase of the summit included a discussion on synodality in the two traditions and reflection on justice, peace and reconciliation, including testimonies about the challenging situations in their territories by the bishops from Sudan, South Sudan and the Holy Land.

Thursday 25 January, feast of the Conversion of St Paul and final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, began with a discussion of the climate crisis, enriched by testimony from the bishop-pair from Brazil. At the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’ Isola, the ‘Sanctuary of the New Martyrs’, the bishops participated in an Anglican Sung Eucharist, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby, presiding and preaching. Later that afternoon, along with Christians from many other Christian traditions, they participated in Vespers at the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls, presided by Pope Francis. At the end of the liturgy, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury jointly commissioned the pairs of bishops for shared witness and mission.

On the morning of Friday 26 January, the bishops prayed in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, the church from where St Augustine was sent as a missionary to the people of England in 597. Accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, they departed for England immediately after the service and that evening participated in a candle-lit pilgrimage around Canterbury Cathedral. A key element of the Canterbury phase of the summit was a panel presentation and discussion about safeguarding. Bishops heard in a series of presentations about the need for transparency and accountability and for compassionate listening to the experiences of victims/survivors of abuse by church personnel. The panel included a victim of childhood sexual abuse by a priest.

On the evening of Saturday 27 January, the bishops visited the Catholic parish church of St Thomas of Canterbury for Mass. The homily was delivered by an Anglican, Bishop Bruce Myers of Quebec. The following morning, they were in Canterbury Cathedral for Choral Eucharist. Mirroring the pattern of the evening before, the homily was delivered by a Catholic, Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong.

At the end of the summit, the bishops issued a final statement, entitled Our Common Witness, Calling and Commitment. [NB: French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese versions of the document will be available soon]. In it, they affirmed: “We are sent to proclaim the joyful message of God’s everlasting kingdom as pilgrim companions to one another on the missionary journey. We promise to proclaim the Good News of peace to those in places scourged by ongoing wars, and to those who live under the threat of violence; the Good News of mercy to those who live with want and with guilt; and the Good News of justice and restoration to those who are oppressed or carrying shame inflicted on them by others.”

Roman Catholic document on blessings could bring new perspectives to Anglican same-sex marriage debate, leaders say

A document released by the Roman Catholic Church reconsidering its policy on blessings—including those to people in same-sex relationships—offers Anglicans a new way to think about divisions within their own communion, says the Rev. Iain Luke, principal of the Saskatoon-based College of Emmanuel and St. Chad and a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada.

The declaration Fiducia Supplicans, endorsed by Pope Francis on Dec. 18, lays out a shift in the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to blessings. It encourages clergy to offer blessings from the church to any who ask without first scrutinizing whether they are in compliance with the church’s doctrines or meet some moral standard.

When someone asks for a blessing, the document says, regardless of their marital or moral status, they are showing their openness to God’s love and assistance. “This request should, in every way, be valued, accompanied, and received with gratitude,” it states. “People who come spontaneously to ask for a blessing show by this request their sincere openness to transcendence, the confidence of their hearts that they do not trust in their own strength alone, their need for God, and their desire to break out of the narrow confines of this world, enclosed in its limitations.”

Read the rest of this article in the Anglican Journal

Though the new policy does not allow Roman Catholic priests to bless same-sex relationships, it does allow them to bless the people in them, whose relationship status would previously have been grounds for a priest to deny a blessing, says Luke. He compares this approach to that of the early days of Christianity in the first century AD.

“The kind of welcome and help that the church tried to offer to people like runaway slaves for example, wasn’t conditioned on anything,” he says. “And that’s something that’s right there in the document—to say there’s a blessing that God offers always to everyone without our needing to do anything. It’s unconditional.”

While many LGBTQ-supporting Anglicans in Canada may feel this move still leaves a wide gulf between themselves and the Roman Catholic position on marriage, he says, the document also shows that as a dialogue partner, the Roman Catholic Church is trying to be responsive to issues of sexuality. It may even offer some insight, he says, for conversations within the Anglican Church of Canada, which is not of one mind on the question of same-sex marriage.

General Synod voted down an amendment that would have made language in the church’s marriage canon fully gender-neutral, though since the canon does not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriages, some dioceses have allowed them.

For those who cannot see their way to a change in doctrine, he says, Fiducia Supplicans offers a model of what it might look like to be as welcoming as possible, even when remaining in disagreement. It also offers food for thought for those who advocate for same-sex marriage. Luke says they may recognize that this document shows even those on the other side of the debate—who are not able to reconcile same-sex marriage with their beliefs—may still want to be as welcoming as they can to LGBTQ people.

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, says she expects Fiducia Supplicans and the reasoning behind it to be a topic of continued discussion and debate within the Anglican Church of Canada and in its dialogue with Roman Catholics.

For some, the new approach does not go far enough in recognizing the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, she wrote in a statement emailed to the Anglican Journal, but for others it will be a step too far—even though, she said, the Roman Catholic church still does not consider same-sex relationships in any way equivalent to marriage. Still, she said, the dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics has continued despite deep disagreements before, and she does not expect the new policy will change that.

Luke, meanwhile, says the new policy may offer some nuance to an issue that too often results in an all-or-nothing attitude between its two sides, both within and outside the Anglican Communion.

“We tend to think in terms of pro- or anti-, and either you’re pro-gay couples and you want everything that you can get for them, including marriage, or you’re against,” he says. “My hope is that what we could take away from what the Catholic Church has done here is a step back from the polarization that seems to come along with that way of viewing things.

A short history of Catholic-Anglican relations — and the last roadblocks to unity

The Roman Catholic-Anglican dialogue is advancing on the path of reconciliation after four centuries of conflict and separation. This decades-long effort is now moving beyond theological dialogue at the international level to building a movement whose guiding principle is: “The Christian churches should do all things together except where deep differences require that we act separately.”

Canada’s Catholic archbishop of Regina, Don Bolen, and the Canadian British-born Anglican suffragan bishop in Europe, David Hamid, explained this to America at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, on Tiber Island in Rome, on Jan. 25.

The two bishops are the co-chairmen of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which goes by the acronym IARCCUM. Composed entirely of bishops from both churches, the commission came into existence in 2001 and held a two-part summit in Rome and Canterbury during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25. The summit brought together pairs of bishops from 27 countries, one from each Anglican province and one from the Catholic bishops’ conference in the same region.

I spoke to them just before the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, celebrated the Anglican Holy Eucharist in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew “with the permission of the bishop of Rome,” he said. (Archbishop Welby’s predecessor, Archbishop Rowan Williams, celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill on Nov. 26, 2006, with the permission of Pope Benedict XVI.)

Both bishops agreed that Pope Francis’ approach to ecumenical dialogue dovetails well with the commission’s model. Indeed, from the beginning of his pontificate in March 2013, Francis has encouraged Christians to cooperate in concrete ways in addressing the problems of the world, even when theological or doctrinal problems may still create roadblocks to unity between the different Christian churches. He believes that “by walking together,” “praying together” and “working together” wherever possible, friendships can be built between the leaders and members of the different churches that not only give an important Christian witness to the world but also make it easier to address the theological obstacles to Christian unity.

Read the rest of this article in America Magazine

An ecumenical journey

I asked them to explain the history of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission and where this movement is heading. Both presented papers to the summit, which I have also drawn on for this article.

Bishop Hamid, who is the suffragan bishop in Europe, explained that the bilateral commission “is something rare indeed in the ecumenical movement.” While most commissions engage in official theological dialogue, he said: “IARCCUM is a type of commission that has not existed between any two churches at the global level. It is complementary to the theological dialogue that we have between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion.”

It is a result of an ecumenical journey started in 1966, after the Second Vatican Council, by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury, representing the Anglican Communion, he said. At a historic encounter in the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, on March 24, 1966, the pope and the archbishop signed a common declaration “to inaugurate between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed.”

In a significant gesture on that occasion, Paul VI took the ring off his finger and placed it on Archbishop Ramsey’s finger. The archbishop burst into tears because he understood that the bishop of Rome was, in a symbolic rather than doctrinal way, recognizing his role as archbishop and inviting a deep relationship toward full visible unity. Ever since, the archbishops of Canterbury have worn that ring when they visit the pope, as Archbishop Welby did this year.

After that historic meeting, Bishop Hamid said a preparatory commission was set up and produced the Malta Report in 1968, which identified three areas for joint international ecumenical work: “theological dialogue, a matrimonial commission, and a third area that seemed to involve the bishops working together on areas of joint church activity—prayer, pastoral statements, missionary strategy, practical collaboration on all areas of church life ‘to lead to working together for solutions to the problems of the world.’”

The theological dialogue became the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1967 and is now in its third phase. The Commission on Marriage addressed questions of mixed marriages between Catholics and Anglicans and published its conclusions in 1975. “But the third dimension [of joint action] lay dormant for many decades,” Bishop Hamid noted.

Roadblocks to unity

Things began to change in the relationship between the two churches, however, following the Church of England’s decision to ordain women as priests in 1994. Subsequently, Bishop Hamid said, Canterbury’s Archbishop George Carey visited Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in 1996, and they agreed that “it may be opportune at this stage in our journey to consult further about how the relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church is to progress.”

This agreement led to a meeting of senior Catholic and Anglican bishops from 13 countries in the city of Mississauga, near Toronto, Canada, in May 2000.

There, the bishops reviewed the joint work in the dialogue since 1966 and concluded that “a very impressive level of agreement in faith” had been reached between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. They called for a body that would “facilitate the development of strategies for translating the degree of spiritual communion that has been achieved into visible and practical outcomes.”

The Mississauga meeting “did not sweep aside any unresolved challenges,” Bishop Hamid said. Those issues related to the role of the universal primate (the pope), the question of Anglican orders, the ordination of women and differing approaches to certain moral and ethical questions. However, he said, “the bishops declared that these challenges were not to diminish all that we hold in common and all that we might do in common.”

After that meeting, which then-Bishop Walter Kasper, then secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, described as “the best meeting he had ever been to,” a working group visited Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Carey to gain their endorsement for the establishment of a new commission, and thus the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission came into existence in 2001. Significantly, it is formed entirely of bishops because at the Mississauga meeting Anglicans and Catholics recognized that they shared “the common understanding of bishops being the church’s leaders in unity and mission.”

Commenting on establishing a commission of only bishops, Archbishop Bolen remarked, “It’s not that we think that the church is all about bishops, but this is rather to give a nudge to bishops to play their rightful role in helping the churches to take steps towards unity.”

The commission was entrusted with “a threefold mandate,” Bishop Hamid explained: to write a common statement to be agreed and signed at the highest level of both churches to bring the two churches into a new relationship; to promote the reception of the [Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission] documents; and to foster tangible initiatives arising from the level of communion the churches already share.

Since 2001, however, the first task has not been realized because of what Bishop Hamid referred to as “some events” in the Anglican Communion, alluding to the ordination of women as priests and “different approaches to some moral and ethical questions” that led both sides to conclude that “the time was not right” for such an agreement. Instead, the commission published a statement in 2007, “Growing Together in Unity and Mission”; it summarized what has been achieved in the dialogue since 1966 and “what remains for further exploration.” It emphasized that “what we hold in common is not only sufficient but compels us to move forward in tangible communion in life and mission.”

Bishop Hamid noted that the commission’s website has documented what happened at the practical level in the Catholic-Anglican dialogue in the years up to 2016 when pairs of bishops belonging to the commission from 19 Anglican provinces and Catholic bishops’ conferences came together in Rome for a first summit meeting. That summit resulted in an appeal to the bishops and people of both churches called “Walking Together.”

In that appeal, the Catholic and Anglican bishops said:

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we have caught glimpses of the truth that when we walk together humbly and honestly, the Risen Lord walks with us, and the Holy Spirit, who so deeply desires our reconciliation, guides us. Our walking under the Cross opens to a relational ecumenism of joy and hope. We were also encouraged to remember that it is more important to fail at things that will ultimately succeed than to succeed at things that will ultimately fail. Our pilgrimage is, and always has been, in the hands of God, who is author of time and Lord of history.

The Pope Francis era

In 2016, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby encouraged the commission on this journey of “walking together,” Bishop Hamid recalled. During that first summit, Vespers were held at the Church of San Gregorio in Rome, from which Pope Gregory sent Augustine to England at the end of the sixth century. At that event, the pope and the archbishop commissioned the bishops “to be artisans of healing and reconciliation in the power of the Gospel, and to go forth as pairs of pilgrims, returning to our home nations and regions to encourage common prayer, mission and witness.”

During that prayer service, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby showed yet again that progress in ecumenical relations is not just a matter of words; it also involves gestures. Francis gave the Archbishop of Canterbury a replica of the pastoral staff of St. Gregory the Great, a reminder, the appeal noted, “that at the heart of our proclamation as bishops is the love of God made manifest in the crucified and risen Christ, who is the Good Shepherd of us all.” Archbishop Welby gave Francis his own pectoral cross, the cross of nails from Coventry Cathedral, which the appeal describes as “a symbol of the sinfulness of war and violence, and of the new life which is made possible through the reconciling work of Calvary.”

Since 2001, the commission has expanded as a movement, and by January 2024, at the second summit in Rome, it was composed of bishops from 27 countries, including more representatives from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.

Archbishop Bolen, who worked from 2001 to 2008 as desk officer for Anglican-Catholic relations and Methodist-Catholic relations at the Pontifical Council (now Dicastery) for the Promotion of Christian Unity, explained that the bishops at the commission’s summit have “an experience” because when they pray, discuss, share and eat together, “they experience the depth of communion that binds us together.”

Moreover, he said, “they experience that the Holy Spirit is at work in the context of the dialogue, at work in our building of relationships, moving past misunderstandings, learning to know and to recognize that the dialogue partner loves God, loves the church, desires to be a community of disciples, just as much as any participants themselves felt.” In other words, Archbishop Bolen said, “we experience that we are in real but incomplete communion.”

He said that this “real but incomplete communion” that Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), the official name of the theological dialogue group, “has registered” over the past half-century “has been profound” but “unresolved differences keep us from being able to take us the full step toward full communion.”

In this context, the commission has an important, complementary role to play, Archbishop Bolen explained, because “the underlying principle of the work of IARCCUM is that we are called to live out that real but incomplete communion in our ecclesial lives as fully as possible, and that we as bishops have a leading role in taking steps to make that happen.”

Put another way, he said, “whatever you hold in common should translate into action and to witness. And so, the more you hold in common, the more you should be able to do together.”

Yet, after more than 50 years of dialogue, he remarked, “there is a gap between the elements of faith we hold in common and the tangible expression of that shared belief in our ecclesial lives,” and in the commission, “we believe that it is time to bridge that gap.” He added, “That gap is for us and our churches to fill, guided by the Holy Spirit, who forms and summons us to be artisans of reconciliation.”

From dialogue to action

At this January’s summit, he said, they sought to bridge the gap by “walking together” and “praying together” in “the holy places” in Rome. He listed among these the basilicas of St. Peter and of St. Paul, the church of St. Gregory, the basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island, which has become the Shrine of the New Martyrs (among them are seven members of the Anglican religious order, the Melanesian Brotherhood), the Anglican Center, the Centro Pro Unione and finally Canterbury Cathedral, in England, where the Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Stephen Chow, S.J., preached during the celebration of the eucharistic liturgy.

At the summit, Archbishop Bolen said they also discussed how to bridge the gap in a variety of sessions that focused on such themes as synodality, the pursuit of justice, safeguarding and the exercise of authority.

He recalled that the commission’s working principle states that “Christian churches should do all things together except where deep differences require that we act separately.” Archbishop Bolen said: “This is a principle that has been endorsed by our respective churches, but in fact we don’t do that for the most part. In general, Christian churches act separately except when extraordinary circumstances force us to act together.” But, he said, “we can be part of reversing that. And it will matter to the world. It will strengthen our witness to the world.”

The co-chairs of the commission agreed that Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an inspiring example—“an iconic image”—of the kind of Christian action that the commission is seeking to promote when, together with the moderator of the Church of Scotland, they went on a pilgrimage of peace to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in February 2023, to give their support to the struggling peace process in that country. Such an ecumenical action by the leaders of those churches is without precedent in history. They blazed a trail of Christian witness for other Christian leaders to follow at local, national and international levels.

Five hours after our conversation, Archbishop Bolen and Bishop Hamid joined the Anglican and Catholic bishops and other Christian leaders for Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls for the closing of the 57th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. At the end of this, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby commissioned the bishops—in pairs of one Anglican and one Catholic—to return to their 27 home countries “to give witness to the hope that does not deceive, and to the unity for which Christ prayed” and to make “this ministry of reconciliation” their special care.

The Catholic and Anglican bishops of the commission concluded their weeklong summit by issuing a statement on Feb.1, in which they said:

After four centuries of conflict and separation, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have now been on a walk towards reconciliation for almost six decades. At times the path has been bumpy, but the Holy Spirit has been at work, and our churches have persevered in a dialogue which has been extraordinarily fruitful. As we have walked together, we have come to recognize each other as disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and desire to be faithful to the lead of the Spirit.”

They committed themselves “to engage in common witness, to build relationships of friendship in Christ, to walk a synodal path together, and to share wherever possible in the Church’s mission.”

As part of that mission of reconciliation, they committed themselves “to proclaim the Good News of peace to those in places scourged by ongoing wars, and to those who live under the threat of violence; the Good News of mercy to those who live with want and with guilt; and the Good News of justice and restoration to those who are oppressed or carrying shame inflicted on them by others.”

Catholic, Anglican bishops vow to support one another, work together

As Catholics and Anglicans pray and work for the day when they can celebrate the Eucharist together, they are called to support one another in situations of suffering, apologize together for times when they have sinned and work together to share the good news of God’s love, said bishops from both communities.

Pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops from 27 nations traveled to Rome Jan. 22-25 and to Canterbury, England, Jan. 26-29 for prayer, discussion and a commissioning by Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

The pilgrimage was organized by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, a body established in 2001 to promote common prayer and joint projects to demonstrate concretely how the theological agreements the churches have made also have practical implications in witnessing together to the Christian faith.

A final statement drafted by participants was posted Feb. 1 [at IARCCUM.org] and on the websites of the Anglican Communion and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.

During the journey, the statement said, “we listened to the testimony of some of our bishops who minister courageously in circumstances of violence, acute suffering, oppression and warfare. In a world so scarred and wounded, we hear in many places of a suffering church and the call for all of us to be united in prayer.”

“The vocation of the Church is both to love and to witness to the love of God in the face of suffering,” the statement said.

The pilgrimage was a time for Anglican and Catholic bishops to draw closer in faith and in friendship, they said. “Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we have been walking the road together with Christ in our midst. Because we recognize one Lord, we recognize one another as his disciples, and are strengthened for the journey ahead. Bonds of trust are being forged, challenging preconceived notions, and allowing us to speak to each other with the frankness that friendship allows.”

The bishops shared prayer and attended each other’s celebrations of the Eucharist; the Catholic bishops received a blessing during Communion time at the Anglican service and the Anglican bishops went up for a blessing during Communion at the Catholic Masses.

“The act of approaching the altar for a blessing when we could not receive the Eucharist, though marked by sadness, was for many of us a moving experience of spiritual communion, and a further impetus to continue this journey so that we might one day break bread together around the same altar,” the statement said.

The Catholic and Anglican bishops also shared stories about the struggles of members of their flocks, including because of clergy sexual abuse or the past cooperation of the churches with people and powers that oppressed them.

“As we have shared the challenges and hopes of our peoples in different parts of the world,” they wrote, “we have heard how in many places Indigenous peoples, descendants of enslaved persons and others live with the legacy of colonization and assimilation.”

“We have heard the call to repent of our participation in efforts of colonization, and to commit ourselves to new ways of walking together and to stand in solidarity with those marked by this painful legacy,” they said.

On the issue of sexual abuse, they said, “We have been encouraged to be less concerned with the reputation of our churches and to give primary importance to accompanying those who have been deeply wounded by members of our churches.”

Anglican and Catholic Bishops of the Growing Together summit share their commitment and call for Christian Unity

It’s time to ‘walk together, pray together, and seek justice together’, say Anglican and Catholic Bishops.

Anglican and Catholic bishops participating in the ecumenical summit Growing Together have shared their post-conference ‘Call’ today. Entitled Our Common Witness, Calling and Commitment, it comes after a weeklong gathering (22-29 January) that saw the bishops meeting in Rome and Canterbury, for pilgrimage and discussion on joint mission and witness.

Meeting during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the summit was attended by Catholic and Anglican bishop pairs, representing 27 countries from all over the world. During the summit, each pairing was commissioned by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, during Vespers, at the basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls in Rome.

The summit was organised by IARCCUM, an ongoing International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. It is supported by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome and the Anglican Communion Office, Secretariat to the Anglican Communion.

Our Common Witness, Calling and Commitment covers important themes relevant to Church and world affairs. It is written not only as a summary of the bishops’ commitment, but also as a united call to the wider Church. In its opening it says:

After four centuries of conflict and separation, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have now been on a walk towards reconciliation for almost six decades. At times, the path has been bumpy, but the Holy Spirit has been at work and our churches have persevered in a dialogue which has been extraordinarily fruitful.

We willingly proclaim that our communion in Christ is a source of joy and life. While that communion is not yet full, decades of rich theological dialogue, nourished by prayer for and with each other, have brought us to a place where the bonds which unite us are deep and profound. Yet in our churches we have barely begun to do all that is possible to do together.

It is the task and mission of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) to build on the results of that dialogue and to bridge the gap between the elements of faith we hold in common and the tangible expression of that shared belief in our ecclesial lives.

Mindful of God’s sending us forth to engage in common witness, to build relationship of friendship in Christ, to walk a synodal path together and to share wherever possible in the Church’s mission, IARCCUM brings together bishops from across the world where Anglicans and Catholics live together side by side in significant number.

The statement goes on to make calls and invitations to the Church in the areas of Witness, Friendship, Mission and Synodality. It says: ‘Synodality is not merely about the Church’s governance; it is about putting relationships at the centre of the Church’s life.’ It references the words of Pope Francis to the bishops during their commissioning at St Paul’s outside the Walls in Rome: ‘First our brothers and sisters, then the structures.’

In its commitments on mission, the statement calls for working for the ‘flourishing of human life in every aspect…. We cannot live in isolation from each other as churches.’ The commitment also references the challenges and hopes of ‘Indigenous Peoples, descendants of enslaved persons and others that live with the legacy of colonisation and assimilation.’ Appeals are also made to be able to ‘hear and heed the voices of women and of minority ethnic groups wherever they experience marginalisation or the denial of their human dignity.’

During the Summit, bishops participating shared about the realities of the climate crisis, including Bishops Marinez Bassotto and Teodoro Mendes Tavares from Amazonia. The statement is clear in the call to ‘care for our common home’, echoing Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment (Laudato Si’) and the recent Lambeth Call on the Environment and Sustainable Development issued by Anglican bishops during the 2022 Lambeth Conference.

The statement also makes a promise to proclaim the ‘Good News of peace to those in places scourged by ongoing wars’.

The Growing Together statement is an important comment from the IARCCUM bishops, not only on their sentiments during the meeting, but as an ongoing commitment to working for unity as they go home. It concludes:

As we return to our own local churches after our pilgrimage in Rome and Canterbury, we pray that our ministry alongside one another as Catholics and Anglicans will be for the world a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ.

Read the full Commitment here on the IARCCUM website.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics sent on the same missionary path

Le texte français est ci-dessous

Last week I had the privilege of participating in a summit of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. IARCCUM’s mandate is to help give tangible expression to the formal agreements reached between our two communions of churches over the past 60 years. Even with so much theological consensus on so many things, there is still so much more that Anglicans and Catholics can and should be doing together.

In that spirit, 50 bishops from 27 countries where Catholics and Anglicans live side by side in significant numbers spent a week gathered in Rome and then Canterbury on an ecumenical pilgrimage of common prayer, relationship building, discussion, and discernment about how we can be better witnesses of reconciliation in our own lands and in the world.

Working together

IARCCUM’s co-chairs are (Anglican) Bishop David Hamid and (Roman Catholic) Archbishop Don Bolen. They’ve been a part of this journey since IARCCUM first started taking shape at an historic meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders in Mississauga, Ontario, in 2000.

IARCCUM bishops work in pairs – an Anglican and a Catholic bishop from each country represented. My Canadian Catholic “twin” is Bishop Martin Laliberté of Trois-Rivières. He’s also currently the president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec/Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec. Bishop Martin and I have known each other since 2019 when he served as an auxiliary bishop in Quebec City. We got to know each other better still over the course of the week, and discussed ways Anglicans and Catholics in Quebec and the rest of Canada might work more closely together.

Each pair of bishops was invited to briefly share a snapshot of the context of their ministries. Bishop Martin and I explained some of the challenges and opportunities of being the church in a sometimes aggressively secular age – something we were reminded is not unique to Quebec or Canada. We also shared our churches’ involvement in the residential schools system, and our attempts to be reconciled with Indigenous peoples.

Several bishops serve in lands where war, violence, and suffering are a part of daily life. Bishop Tombe Terrly Kuku Andli (Catholic, Sudan), Archbishop Samuel Peni (Anglican, South Sudan), and Bishop Alex Lodiong Sakor Eyobo (Catholic, South Sudan) explained that their countries have been enduring civil unrest for most of their lives. Civil war has actually drawn Anglicans and Catholics closer together, they said, and the churches are sometimes called upon to act as mediators in the midst of armed conflict.

Bishop Matthias Der (Anglican) and Cardinal Stephen Chow (Catholic) serve in Hong Kong, which they described as a polarized, divided, and despairing city. More than 300,000 people, most of them in their 30s, have left Hong Kong in recent years because of COVID restrictions, a weak economy, and a febrile political situation. In the midst of it all, Catholics and Anglicans work in partnership, running about half of Hong Kong’s schools and many of the city’s social services.

Bishop Rafic Nahara (Catholic) and Archbishop Hosam Naoum (Anglican) both serve communities currently touched by the war between Israel and Hamas, and shared the challenges the church in the Middle East faces in trying to be a witness for peace in a deeply polarized land and situation.

The two bishops from Brazil, Bishop Teodoro Mendes Tavares (Catholic) and Bishop Marinez Bassotto (Anglican), serve side by side in the country’s ecologically rich yet fragile Amazonia region. They shared how Catholics and Anglicans work together in solidarity with Indigenous people in their bid to limit exploitative resource extraction and the effects of climate change in a region whose vast rainforests are known as the “lungs of the earth.”

For the first time, IARCCUM was enriched by the presence of female bishops, who were full and welcome participants in the summit’s life and work. Sally Sue Hernández (left) is the Anglican Bishop of Mexico City and Marinez Bassotto is the Bishop of the Amazon and Primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil.

While new friendships were forged at this summit, existing ones were renewed and strengthened. It was a joy to be reunited with my friend Hosam Naoum. We first met in 2004 when he was a newly ordained priest leading a Palestinian Anglican youth group on a visit to Canada, and I was a newly ordained deacon assigned to accompany them on their 24-hour stay in Quebec City. Hosam now serves as the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and as Primate of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and his church is being sorely tested by the war currently raging between Israel and Hamas.

In Rome and Canterbury

Among the many moments of prayer we shared together that week was an Anglican-led service of choral evensong in Chapel of the Choir of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It included the participation of the choirs of Rome’s two Anglican congregations.

On the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul we gathered with a congregation of 2,500 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. At that service, the IARCCUM bishops were also commissioned, two by two, by Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, with these words: “May your ministry alongside one another as Catholics and Anglicans be for the world a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ for which we pray this day.”

From Rome we moved to Canterbury, where (among other things) we engaged in fruitful roundtable discussions about how we can live up to our commission and put our common faith as Anglicans and Catholics into concrete form back home.

In Canterbury, I was honoured to be invited to preach at Saint Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church. The gospel was about Jesus teaching “with authority” in a synagogue and then healing someone possessed by an unclean spirit. I suggested that authority, as modelled by Jesus, and the work of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue share at least one thing in common: they do not end in affirming words, but are expressed in love and in concrete action. The Mass was presided over by Roman Catholic Archbishop Christopher Cardone, who serves on the Solomon Islands. He graciously invited me to join him in offering the final blessing.

One of the realities of the real-but-imperfect communion Anglicans and Catholics share is that we cannot yet share in the eucharist together. So at Catholic celebrations of the eucharist, Anglican participants came forward to receive an individual blessing, and vice-versa when it was an Anglican-led eucharist. As we stated in the document issued after the summit’s conclusion, “The act of approaching the altar for a blessing when we could not receive the eucharist, though marked by sadness, was for many of us a moving experience of spiritual communion, and a further impetus to continue this journey so that we might one day break bread together around the same altar.”

During a final celebration together at Canterbury Cathedral, we were sent forth as IARCCUM bishops to “be true pilgrim companions to one another in this missionary journey.” Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong preached the sermon, during which he reflected, “We Anglicans and Roman Catholics are called to be Jesus’ partners, individually and collectively. The twelve apostles and disciples were not called to form camps, working for their own missions, or competing against each other. They were called to become an assembly, a community, a communion, a synodal koinonia, praying and discerning, teaching and serving for the mission of our Triune God.”

You can read about everything we have done and about our expectations for the future, in this statement that we issued at the conclusion of our summit: The IARCCUM Bishops’ Call: Our Common Witness, Calling and Commitment


Anglicans et catholiques, envoyés sur le même chemin missionnaire

Mgr Bruce Myers, o.g.s., évêque du diocèse anglican de Québec, raconte son expérience lors du sommet « Grandir ensemble » de la Commission internationale anglico-catholique romaine pour l’unité et la mission, qui a eu lieu du 22 au 29 janvier 2024, à Rome et à Carterbury.

La semaine dernière, j’ai eu le privilège de participer au sommet de la Commission internationale anglico-catholique romaine pour l’unité et la mission (ndlr: **IARCCUM en anglais). Le mandat de l’IARCCUM est celui d’aider à donner une expression tangible aux accords formels conclus entre nos deux communions ecclésiales au cours des derniers 60 ans. Même avec un si large consensus théologique sur tellement de points, il y a encore beaucoup de choses que les anglicans et les catholiques peuvent faire et devraient être en train de faire ensemble.

Dans cet esprit 50 évêques de 27 pays où catholiques et anglicans habitent côte à côte en grand nombre, ont vécu une semaine ensemble réunis à Rome et puis à Canterbury, un pèlerinage œcuménique de prière commune, de création de liens, de discussion, et de discernement sur comment être de meilleurs témoins de réconciliation dans nos propres pays et dans le monde.

Travailler ensemble

Les évêques de l’IARCCUM travaillent par équipe de deux — un évêque anglican et un autre catholique, représentant leur pays. Mon « jumeau » catholique canadien est Mgr Martin Laliberté, du diocèse de Trois-Rivières (ndlr: et évêque ponens des OPM au Canada francophone). Il est également président de l’Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec.

Mgr Martin et moi nous connaissons depuis 2019, depuis qu’il était évêque auxiliaire de l’archidiocèse de Québec. Tout au long de cette semaine [passé ensemble], nous avons eu la chance de se connaître davantage et nous avons également discuté sur les façons dont les anglicans et les catholiques pourraient s’approcher un peu plus pour travailler ensemble au Québec et dans le reste du Canada.

Chaque équipe d’évêques était invitée à partager un brève aperçu du contexte dans lequel ils exercent leur ministère. Mgr Martin et moi avons présenté quelques-uns des défis et des opportunités qui viennent du fait de faire Église dans une époque séculière, parfois de manière agressive — une chose qui, nous l’avons appris, n’est pas propre qu’au Québec ou le Canada. Nous avons aussi partagé sur l’implication de nos Églises dans le système d’écoles résidentielles, ainsi que nos efforts de réconciliation avec les peuples autochtones.

À Rome et à Canterbury

Lors de la Fête de la conversion de saint Paul, nous étions 2500 personnes réunis à la basilique de Saint-Paul-Hors-les-Murs, à Rome, pour marquer la Semaine de prière pour l’unité des chrétiens. Lors de cette cérémonie, les évêques de l’IARCCUM ont été envoyés, deux par deux, par le pape François et l’évêque de Canterbury Justin Welby, avec ces mots: « Que votre ministère l’un à côté de l’autre en tant que catholiques et anglicans, soit pour le monde un avant-goût de la réconciliation de tous les chrétiens dans l’unité de la seule et unique Église du Christ pour laquelle nous prions aujourd’hui. »

À Canterbury, j’ai eu l’honneur d’être invité à prêcher à l’église catholique de Saint Thomas of Canterbury. L’Évangile portait sur Jésus qui prêchait « avec autorité » dans une synagogue et qui avait guérit quelqu’un ayant un esprit impure. J’ai suggéré que l’autorité — dont le modèle de celle-ci est Jésus — et le travail du dialogue anglico-catholique ont au moins une chose en commun: ils ne se terminent pas par des paroles d’affirmation, mais sont exprimés dans l’amour et par une action concrète.

Lors d’une dernière célébration à la cathédrale de Canterbury, nous avons été envoyés en tant qu’évêques de l’IARCCUM afin d’être « de vrai compagnons de pèlerinage les uns pour les autres sur ce chemin missionnaire. »

Vous pouvez lire sur tout ce que nous avons fait ainsi que sur nos espérances que nous portons pour l’avenir, dans cette déclaration que nous avons publiée à la conclusion de notre sommet: Déclaration (en anglais)

Traduction: José I. Sierra, Œuvres pontificales missionnaires

Koinonia Seminar – Malines: Continuing the Conversations

The Reverend Dr Nicholas Sagovsky, the Reverend Professor Thomas Pott and the Reverend Dr Jamie Hawkey discuss the work of the Malines Conversation Group – an international group of Anglican and Catholic scholars – and how we might work towards unity between and within the churches. The seminar is open to anyone interested in ecumenism and theology in the church today.

Update on ecumenical relations of the Holy See

As in previous years, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity L’Osservatore Romano published a series of articles prepared by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity on the ecumenical relations of the Holy See. The texts, which are published in Italian, offer an update on the ecumenical situation and on initiatives undertaken in 2023.

‘Called to be Jesus Partners.’ Video on the Canterbury stage of the IARCCUM summit

“Called to be Jesus Partners”. The bishops taking part in Anglican and Catholic “Growing Together” ecumenical summit, went on pilgrimage to Canterbury this weekend.

They attended Sunday Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Stephen Chow Saau-yan (Bishop of Hong Kong) shared a message of hope.

Watch the video highlights from a weekend of discussion and friendship.

‘Called to be Jesus Partners.’ Anglican and Catholic Summit in Canterbury

The bishops of the ‘Growing Together’ ecumenical summit have travelled from Rome to Canterbury for the second phase of their programme. The summit coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and run from January 22-29.

Meeting in Anglican and Catholic bishop pairs, it has been a week seasoned with themes of friendship, conversation and journeying together.

The bishops have explored the importance of listening and learning from one another, celebrating what they have in common and how faith traditions can work together as partners in the gospel.

This sense of partnership was celebrated most significantly on January 25, when Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned the bishops in joint mission, during Vespers, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the church of Saint Paul Outside The Walls.

The summit has seen the bishops pilgrimage to holy sites in both Rome and Canterbury. On their last day in Rome, they prayed at the Church of San Gregorio al Celio – from where Pope Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine to England in 597 to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and the Co-Chairs of the ecumenical summit (Archbishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid) stood beside the Chair of Pope Gregory the Great. Whilst in Canterbury, time was also spent at St Augustine’s Chair, the ceremonial enthronement cathedra chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Canterbury phase of the programme has involved continued discussions on church and world affairs. The bishops participated in a candlelit tour of Canterbury Cathedral, visiting the altar of the martyr Thomas Becket. They have attended Vigil Mass at the Parish Church of St Thomas of Canterbury where Archbishop Chris Cardone presided (from the Archdiocese of Honiara in the Solomon Islands), and Bishop Bruce Myers (Bishop of Quebec) preached.

During Sunday, the bishops attended sung Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral, where Cardinal Stephen Chow Saau-yan (Bishop of Hong Kong) preached. In his Sermon, the Cardinal said:

“Jesus has brought us together here. The same Lord has graced us with an array of rich experiences that should prompt our hearts and move us into ecumenical actions. I recall the heart wrenching experiences that were shared by my fellow bishops in Amazon, Middle East, Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan, et cetera, where martyrdom is a real possibility.

“We Anglicans and Roman Catholics are called to be Jesus partners, individually and collectively. The twelve apostles and disciples were not called to form camps, working for their own missions, or competing against each other. They were called to become an assembly, a community, a communion, a synodal koinonia, praying and discerning, teaching and serving for the mission of our Triune God.

“… May God’s ever loving and ever inclusive mission of salvation….and what we have learned at this summit… enlighten us and spur us forward so that we can be counted as worthy mission partners of the Son of God. May God bless you, all my sisters and brothers in a church that is of Christ. Amen.”

The bishops spent time in the afternoon working on a joint statement on their common witness. The day concluded with Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral, at which the 10th anniversary of the Canterbury Girls’ Choir was also celebrated.

From Rome to Canterbury! Video on the IARCCUM weekend in Canterbury

From Rome to Canterbury! Co-Chairs of IARCCUM and the ‘Growing Together’ summit, Archbishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid, talk about what it means for Catholic and Anglican bishops to meet together for conversation and pilgrimage in Canterbury this weekend.

Video introducing the Anglican-Catholic summit in Rome

San Gregorio al Celio in Rome is the church from where Pope Gregory the Great sent St Augustine to England in 597, to be the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Yesterday, the ‘Growing Together’ summit travelled from Rome to Canterbury. Co-Chair of IARCCUM, is the Archbishop Donald Bolen, the Catholic Archbishop of Regina, Saskatchewan. Standing on the steps of San Gregorio, he shared his reflections on the significance of this meeting of Catholic and Anglican bishops.

#IARCCUM

Anglican and Catholic bishops at Ecumenical Summit prepare to travel to Canterbury

This week’s “Growing Together” summit has seen pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops gather for a series of ecumenical discussions and visits to holy sites in Rome, that have significance to the common roots shared by both traditions.

Today, before the summit moves to Canterbury for the second phase of the programme, the bishops gathered to pray at the Church of San Gregorio al Celio during their last day in Rome. It was a fitting location, as San Gregorio al Celio is the church from where St Augustine was sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great in 597, to be the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the service, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, along with Archbishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid (Co-Chairs of IARCCUM) stood at the Chair of Gregory the Great.

The Catholic and Anglican bishop pairing from England (Bishop Peter Collins, East Anglia and Bishop Stephen Race, Beverley) read from the Letter of St Gregory the Great to St Augustine of Canterbury.

During their time in Canterbury (26-29 January), the bishops will make pilgrimage visits that include a candlelit tour of Canterbury Cathedral, a Vigil Mass of St Thomas of Canterbury parish and Cathedral Eucharist, where Cardinal Stephen Chow will preach.

The summit will also continue ecumenical discussions on joint witness and mission, and work on the preparation of a Joint Statement, for how the bishops will take forward the fruits of their discussion in their home dioceses.

Speaking of their highlights from the programme in Rome, the Chairs of the Summit, Archbishop Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, Canada and Bishop David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe said: 

“During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Gathering together like this as Anglican and Catholic bishops is extremely important, especially at such a time as this when the world is so fragmented. Visiting Rome has been a special opportunity to meet and pray at holy sites that hold significance to both our faith traditions. The commissioning we have received this week from Pope Francis and The Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us again that the faith we share is a sending faith that goes out into the world to serve, bring transformation and share the saving love of Christ. We are looking forward to our ongoing discussions in Canterbury.”

Anglican and Catholic bishops visit the Church of San Gregorio al Celio before going to Canterbury

This week’s “Growing Together” summit has seen pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops gather for a series of ecumenical discussions and visits to holy sites in Rome, that have significance to the common roots shared by both traditions.

Today, before the summit moves to Canterbury for the second phase of the programme, the bishops gathered to pray at the Church of San Gregorio al Celio during their last day in Rome. It was a fitting location, as San Gregorio al Celio is the church from where St Augustine was sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great in 597, to be the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the service, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, along with Archbishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid (Co-Chairs of IARCCUM) stood at the Chair of Gregory the Great.

The Catholic and Anglican bishop pairing from England (Bishop Peter Collins, East Anglia and Bishop Stephen Race, Beverley) read from the Letter of St Gregory the Great to St Augustine of Canterbury.

During their time in Canterbury (26-29 January), the bishops will make pilgrimage visits that include a candlelit tour of Canterbury Cathedral, a Vigil Mass of St Thomas of Canterbury parish and Cathedral Eucharist, where Cardinal Stephen Chow will preach.

The summit will also continue ecumenical discussions on joint witness and mission, and work on the preparation of a Joint Statement, for how the bishops will take forward the fruits of their discussion in their home dioceses.

Speaking of their highlights from the programme in Rome, the Chairs of the Summit, Archbishop Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, Canada and Bishop David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe said:

“During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Gathering together like this as Anglican and Catholic bishops is extremely important, especially at such a time as this when the world is so fragmented. Visiting Rome has been a special opportunity to meet and pray at holy sites that hold significance to both our faith traditions. The commissioning we have received this week from Pope Francis and The Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us again that the faith we share is a sending faith that goes out into the world to serve, bring transformation and share the saving love of Christ. We are looking forward to our ongoing discussions in Canterbury.”

Love is the only path to Christian unity, pope says

Divided Christians will draw closer to one another only by loving God and loving their neighbours, serving one another and not pointing fingers in blame for past faults, Pope Francis said.

Closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with an evening prayer service Jan. 25 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Francis was joined by Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and, at the end of the service, the two commissioned pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops from 27 countries to “bear witness together to the hope that does not deceive and to the unity for which our Savior prayed.”

Members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, who were meeting in Rome, also participated along with representatives of Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican communities in Italy.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the theme for the 2024 celebration of the week of prayer: “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself” from Luke 10:27.

The passage comes from a Gospel story in which a scholar of the law asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. After Jesus affirms the need to love God and one’s neighbour, the scholar asks, “And who is my neighbour?”

“This question attempts to divide, to separate people into those we should love and those we should shun,” Francis said. “This kind of division is never from God; it is from the devil.”

“Only a love that becomes gratuitous service, only the love that Jesus taught and embodied, will bring separated Christians closer to one another,” he said. “Only that love, which does not appeal to the past in order to remain aloof or to point a finger, only that love which in God’s name puts our brothers and sisters before the ironclad defense of our own religious structures, will unite us.”

Although it was not foreseen, Welby also offered a reflection at the service, explaining that Francis invited him to do so.

Christians, he said, as individuals and as churches can choose to be angry or to love. “Anger imprisons us; our rivalry or dislike of our brothers and sisters cuts us off from the freedom that God offers his church.”

But, the archbishop said, “a church caught up in the fire of the love of God through the Holy Spirit will be a church of reconciliation, a church of hope, a church of healing,” it will be a church that can “care for the millions, the billions who are by the road in pain, lost and suffering.”

Christians, Francis said in his homily, should never have to ask who their neighbour is because “each baptized person is a member of the one body of Christ; what is more, everyone in this world is my brother or my sister, and all together we compose that ‘symphony of humanity’ of which Christ is the firstborn and redeemer.”

Francis urged people to ask themselves: “Do I, and then my community, my church, my spirituality, act like a neighbour? Or are they barricaded in defense of their own interests, jealous of their autonomy, caught up in calculating what is in their own interest, building relationships with others only in order to gain something for themselves?”

If it is the latter, he said, “it would not only be a matter of mistaken strategies, but of infidelity to the Gospel.”

The week of prayer concludes each year on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. At the beginning of the liturgy, Francis, Welby and Orthodox Metropolitan Polykarpos of Italy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s representative in Rome, prayed before what is believed to be St. Paul’s tomb.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, after his conversion St. Paul immediately asks, “What am I to do, Lord?”

Christians, although divided, the pope said, must also ask, “What are we to do, Lord?”

The first response, the pope said, is “pray.”

“Prayer for unity is the primary responsibility in our journey together,” he said. “And it is a sacred responsibility, because it means being in communion with the Lord, who prayed above all to the Father for unity.”

Francis and Welby also prayed for peace, remembering particularly the people of Israel and Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, South Sudan and Congo.

When St. Paul asked God what he was supposed to do, the pope said, the Lord told him, “Get up and go.”

“Get up, Jesus says to each of us and to our efforts on behalf of unity,” the pope said. “So let us get up in the name of Christ from our tired routine and set out anew, for he wills it, and he wills it ‘so that the world may believe.'”

Growing Together Summit – final full day in Rome

Watch highlights from the final full day in Rome of the “Growing Together” ecumenical summit as Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Anglican and Catholic bishops from across the world joined together for Vespers in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

#Anglican #Catholic #IARCCUM #GrowingTogether