Adopted from Gavin Drake, ACNS

The historic first public meeting between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation, which took place 50 years ago in Rome, will be celebrated by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby when they meet next week in Rome. It was a milestone in ecumenical relations when Archbishop Michael Ramsey paid an official visit to Pope Paul VI in 1966.

The visit sent shock waves around the world when Pope Paul presented Archbishop Ramsey with his episcopal ring. Next week’s meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin will be the third meeting between the pair — a sign of how normal the relationship between the two churches have become.

The relationship between the two churches had been thawing before the meeting in 1966. In 1960 Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher paid a private visit to Pope John XXIII in Rome. The next year the Rev. Canon Bernard Pawley was appointed as representative to the Holy See for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Anglicans were invited to observe the Second Vatican Council, when it met from 1962 to 1965.

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In 1996, while in Rome for that first public meeting, Archbishop Ramsey opened the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Pope Paul and Archbishop Ramsey issued a common declaration in which they agreed “to inaugurate a serious dialogue … which, founded on the Gospels and the ancient common tradition, may lead to the unity for which Christ prayed.” That led to the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission.

In 2000, Archbishop George Carey and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which led to the International Anglican–Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).

The 50 years of closer and deeper relationships between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church is being celebrated in a week-long summit beginning Sept. 30 in Canterbury and ending Oct. 7 in Rome. The summit will involve 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops from around the world who have been selected by IARCCUM to “work together in joint mission” and to “look ahead to opportunities for greater unity.”

The Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops will worship together in Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral on Oct. 1. A Roman Catholic Vigil Mass will follow in the cathedral’s undercroft.

During the week, the bishops will make presentations about the pastoral challenges in their dioceses, their own experiences, and their hopes for the future. These presentations will inform the discussions that follow. They will hold a private meeting with Archbishop Welby on Oct. 2.

The 19 pairs of bishops will be commissioned on Oct. 5 by Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Cielo. The service will feature the Sistine Chapel and Canterbury Cathedral choirs.

The first Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Augustine, was the prior of San Gregorio before Pope Gregory I sent him to evangelize England in 597. Earlier this year, San Gregorio sent its ancient relic, the head of the crozier of St. Gregory the Great, to Canterbury for the Primates’ Meeting in a symbol of prayer and support for Archbishop Welby and the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis will meet privately Oct. 6 ahead of a series of meetings with bishops and Vatican officials. As a “mark of their deep friendship and respect,” Welby will wear the episcopal ring that Pope Paul VI presented to Archbishop Michael in 1966.

The summit will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Archbishop Justin will host a dinner in Rome to celebrate five decades of “promoting Christian unity in a divided world.”

“The Anglican Centre has worked for fifty years to help Roman Catholics and Anglicans work together, pray together, study and talk together,” said the Most Rev. David Moxon, the centre’s director. “The journey we are on demands the laying down of old fears and misconceptions of each other, and the building up of a shared story together. These celebrations mark the writing of a new chapter in the history of the Christian Church.”

“It is an immensely significant occasion,” said the Rt. Rev. David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe and the Anglican co-chair of IARCCUM. “There has been such an extraordinary progress towards reconciliation between the two communions in these past 50 years that it is easy to forget just how far we have journeyed together as sisters and brothers in Christ. The common faith we have discovered through our years of dialogue now compels us to act together, sharing in Christ’s mission in the world.”

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