Welcome, Pope Francis!

The Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, offered his warmest welcome to the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the successor to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “We wish Pope Francis every blessing in the enormous responsibilities that he has assumed on behalf of Roman Catholics around the world,” Archbishop Welby said on the evening of March 13.

“His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans. We have long since recognized — and often reaffirmed — that our churches hold a special place for one another. I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors. May the love of Christ unite us, and intensify our service in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism that can be a blessing for the Body of Christ throughout the world,” the archbishop added.

“Pope Francis is well known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable. He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows. His choice of the name Francis suggests that he wants to call us all back to the transformation that St Francis knew and brought to the whole of Europe, fired by contemplation and closeness to God.

“As I begin tomorrow a prayer pilgrimage toward my own inauguration as Archbishop in Canterbury next Thursday, Pope Francis will be much in my own prayers, as he will be throughout the coming months and years.”

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, added warm greetings of his own.

“Millions of Anglicans throughout the world will join me in praying for Pope Francis and his future ministry and leadership among our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church,” Canon Kearon said. “The symbolism of electing a non-European emphasizes the shift of the center of world Christianity. We pray for him in the many challenges he and all who serve in positions of Christian leadership face today.”

The Rt. Rev. Gregory Venables, Bishop of Argentina and former primate of Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur (Anglican Church of the Southern Cone), released a brief note praising his fellow bishop and friend.

“Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like,” Venables wrote. “He is much more of a Christian, Christ-centered and Spirit-filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is in Christ. Pray for him.”

Image: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk, via Flickr

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