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Pope and Justin Welby Jan 2024.jpg
UK News

Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury promote Christian unity in new commission

by Tola Mbakwe

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury have commissioned pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to promote Christian unity.

The bishop pairs who come from across the world, were asked to walk closely together and engage in joint mission and witness.

The service was held at the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls which marks the place where the apostle Paul was buried after his martyrdom in Rome.

During the commissioning, Pope Francis addressed the bishops, saying: "Brothers and sisters, fourteen centuries ago, Pope Gregory the Great commissioned Saint 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."

Most Rev Justin Welby also addressed the bishops, saying: "Brothers and sisters, 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."

This week, the bishop pairs have been attending ‘Growing Together,’ which is a programme taking place in Rome and Canterbury that focuses on dialogue and pilgrimage.

It is organised by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).

This is the second time that the Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin have commissioned Anglican and Catholic bishop pairs. The first happened in 2016 at the church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome.

Before the ceremony, Archbishop Justin preached at Anglican Eucharist held at San Bartolomeo all’Isola on Tiber Island (Sanctuary of the New Martyrs), a ninth century Basilica in Rome.  Both Anglican and Catholic bishops were in attendance.

In his sermon, he focused on the role of the Church to serve and love.

He said: “We must find ways of being joyful in our disagreement, generous in our disputes, hospitable in our differences with one another, in character, in appearance, in temperament and in culture…. around this world we are all deeply different.

He encouraged the Church to be “…the miracle of unity amidst enormous, inhuman, unimaginable difference, which for the world, has always been a reason to fight and conquer one another, not to love and value one another other.

Before the Eucharist, the Archbishop and bishops of IARCCUM toured the Sanctuary of the New Martyrs, which is a memorial in the crypt.

The IARRCUM summit transitions to Canterbury on Friday.


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