Catholic World News

We must not abandon goal of full communion, Pope tells Archbishop of Canterbury

June 16, 2014

For the second time in his pontificate, Pope Francis has met with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the primate of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

“The Lord’s question-- ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ (Mk 9:33)-- might also apply to us,” Pope Francis said during their June 16 meeting. “When Jesus put this question to his disciples they were silent; they were ashamed, for they had been arguing about who was the greatest among them. We too feel ashamed when we ponder the distance between the Lord’s call and our meager response. Beneath his merciful gaze, we cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world.”

“The goal of full unity may seem distant indeed, yet it remains the aim which should direct our every step along the way,” he continued. “I find a source of encouragement in the plea of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism that we should advance in our relationship and cooperation by placing no obstacle to the ways of divine providence and by not prejudicing future promptings of the Holy Spirit (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 24). Our progress towards full communion will not be the fruit of human actions alone, but a free gift of God.”

The Pope stated that official dialogues are “especially significant forums for examining, in a constructive spirit, older and newer challenges to our ecumenical engagement.” Referring to human trafficking, he expressed gratitude that “we stand together, with perseverance and determination, in opposing this grave evil.”

The Pope concluded by asking Archbishop Welby not to forget the “three p[’s]”: “prayer, peace and poverty. We must walk together.”

In his address, Archbishop Welby expressed appreciation for the witness offered by Pope Francis.

“With so many around the world I am profoundly grateful for your remarkable witness of care for the poor and suffering of the world, for your passion for reconciliation, as witnessed so recently in your visit to the Holy Land,” he said. “Calling the faithful to pray for peace and reconciliation and doing that publicly is a witness to the power of prayer, one that I have sought to imitate … Your apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium was inspirational for all Christians. The task of making disciples is of compelling urgency so that the light of Christ may shine into every corner of the world.”

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  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - Jun. 17, 2014 7:12 AM ET USA

    An impossible dream, Your Holiness. What was never united in the first place can never be reunited. Welby represents no one except himself when he talks to Catholic leaders, and any agreement between him and the Catholic Church remains just that - an agreement between two individuals. It would not be binding on any other Anglicans who may have reservations about some of its details. Hence, corporate agreement will forever be wishful thinking and unity a lovely dream.

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Jun. 16, 2014 7:52 PM ET USA

    The Roman Church did not break away from the Anglicans. Rather, England broke from Rome and set their own king over the church. In the process, he broke the line of apostolic succession which both faiths still claim. The good archbishop has only to renounce the break, sit down with the Holy Father and work out the details on how everyone can come back together.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Jun. 16, 2014 7:03 PM ET USA

    Data venia, who is that is in favor of human trafficking? If communion is to be built upon merely wishing good, then we might as well begin talks with the whole world to be in communion (and leave those spikey things of dogma aside!).

  • Posted by: Jim.K - Jun. 16, 2014 6:56 PM ET USA

    Whenever the Anglican unity thing comes up, I always remember reading "Cranmer" by Belloc, and wonder how this could ever be accomplished.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jun. 16, 2014 1:06 PM ET USA

    There is great difficulty in this. There is ample historical information available as to the origin of this division. Unfortunately, those conditions have ended and the division remains. The door is always open. Blessed John Henry Newman set a wonderful example for those who long for full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. His life is exemplary.