What a month it has been for Justin Welby - meeting The Queen on 4 June and then meeting Pope Francis on 14 June. Perhaps one day Pope Francis will be received by Queen Elizabeth and then make a visit to Westminster Abbey.
This morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis received the Primate of all England and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, with the same words that Paul VI greeted his predecessor, Michael Ramsey, during his historic visit to the Vatican in 1966: “Your steps have not brought you to a foreign dwelling ... we are pleased to open the doors to you, and with the doors, our heart, pleased and honoured as we are ... to welcome you ‘not as a guest or a stranger, but as a fellow citizen of the Saints and the Family of God’.”
He also recalled that, at the ceremony of his taking possession of the Cathedral of Canterbury, the archbishop prayed for the new Bishop of Rome, a gesture that the Pope was deeply grateful for. He added: “Since we began our respective ministries within days of each other, I think we will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer.”
“The history of relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church,” the Pope continued, “is long and complex, and not without pain. Recent decades, however, have been marked by a journey of rapprochement and fraternity, and for this we give heartfelt thanks to God. This journey has been brought about both via theological dialogue, through the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and via the growth of cordial relations at every level through shared daily lives in a spirit of profound mutual respect and sincere cooperation. In this regard, I am very pleased to welcome alongside you Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. These firm bonds of friendship have enabled us to remain on course even when difficulties have arisen in our theological dialogue that were greater than we could have foreseen at the start of our journey.”
Francis expressed his gratitude to the archbishop for “the sincere efforts that the Church of England has made to understand the reasons that led ... Pope Benedict XVI, to provide a canonical structure able to respond to the wishes of those groups of Anglicans who have asked to be received collectively into the Catholic Church.” He stated that the structure “will enable the spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral traditions that form the Anglican patrimony to be better known and appreciated in the Catholic world.”
The pontiff then noted that their meeting is an opportunity to recall that “the search for unity among Christians is prompted not by practical considerations, but by the will of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made us his brothers and sisters, children of the One Father. Hence the prayer that we make today is of fundamental importance.”
Their praying together “gives a fresh impulse to our daily efforts to grow towards unity, which are concretely expressed in our cooperation in various areas of daily life. Particularly important among these is our witness to the reference to God and the promotion of Christian values in a world that seems at times to call into question some of the foundations of society, such as respect for the sacredness of human life or the importance of the institution of the family built on marriage. … Then there is the effort to achieve greater social justice, to build an economic system that is at the service of man and promotes the common good. Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.”
“I know that Your Grace,” the Holy Father asserted, “is especially sensitive to all these questions, in which we share many ideas, and I am also aware of your commitment to foster reconciliation and resolution of conflicts between nations. In this regard, together with Archbishop Nichols [the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, England], you have urged the authorities to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict such as would guarantee the security of the entire population, including the minorities, not least among whom are the ancient local Christian communities. As you yourself have observed, we Christians bring peace and grace as a treasure to be offered to the world, but these gifts can bear fruit only when Christians live and work together in harmony. This makes it easier to contribute to building relations of respect and peaceful coexistence with those who belong to other religious traditions, and with non-believers.”
“The unity we so earnestly long for,” concluded the Pope, “is a gift that comes from above and it is rooted in our communion of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. … May the merciful Father hear and grant the prayers that we make to him together.”
Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the Head and Cornerstone,
Chosen of the Lord and precious,
Binding all the church in one;
Holy Zion's help for ever
And her confidence alone.
All that dedicated city,
Dearly loved of God on high,
In exultant jubilation
Pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring
In glad hymns eternally.
To this temple, where we call thee,
Come, O Lord of hosts today:
With thy wonted lovingkindness
Hear thy people as they pray;
And thy fullest benediction
Shed within its walls alway.
Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
What they ask of thee to gain,
What they gain from thee for ever
With the blessed to retain,
And hereafter in thy glory
Evermore with thee to reign.
Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son,
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever Three and ever One,
One in might, and One in glory,
While unending ages run.
At the start of this video the Dean of Westminster was explaining to Pope Benedict XVI that the hymn tune is called 'Westminster Abbey'. The Holy Father was most impressed!