Vatican City

Pope discusses search for unity with Anglican head

Pontiff says meeting an 'opportunity'

Pope discusses search for unity with Anglican head

(By Kate Carlisle) Vatican City, June 14 - Pope Francis borrowed from the words of Pope Paul VI to greet the head of the Anglican church on Friday for their first-ever meeting in Vatican City. The pontiff told the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that he was not a stranger merely stopping by the Holy See. "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," Pope Francis said repeating the words of Pope Paul VI, when he addressed Archbishop Michael Ramsey during his historic visit. Ramsey visited Pope Paul VI in 1966 and was received in the Sistine chapel. During the visit, the pontiff removed his episcopal ring and placed it on the Archbishop of Canterbury's finger where it remained until his death. Pope Francis noted that the two began their respective ministries within days of each other. "I know that during Your Grace's installation in Canterbury Cathedral you remembered in prayer the new Bishop of Rome. I am deeply grateful to you," Francis said. "I think we will always have a particular reason to support one another in prayer," he said. Archbishop Welby also remembered the proximity of their appointments, saying "I pray that the nearness of our two inaugurations may serve the reconciliation of the world and the Church". "As you have stressed, we must promote the fruits of our dialogue; and, with our fellow bishops, we must give expression to our unity in faith through prayer and evangelisation," Welby said. Pope Francis, who was elected the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics after Benedict XVI stepped down in February due to "advanced age", noted that the history of relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church "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," Francis said. "Today's meeting is an opportunity to remind ourselves 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," said the pope, who has often reached out to other denominations and religions since being elected. Pope Francis said he was ''grateful'' for the Church of England's reaction to Vatican rules helping Anglicans join the Roman Catholic Church. The pontiff expressed gratitude for ''the sincere effort the Church of England has shown in understanding the reasons which led my predecessor Pope Benedict XVI to offer a canonical structure able to respond to the demands of those groups of Anglicans that asked to be received, also as a corporation, within the Catholic Church''. A new section of the Catholic Church in which converted Anglicans can gather was created in 2009 and called ''Anglicanorum Coetibus'', Apostolic Constitution in Latin. This allows Anglicans to become Catholic while retaining some of their traditions and practices. It came as a response to demands from more conservative Anglicans, unhappy with progressive developments, such as proposals to have women bishops, for an easier, large-scale way to convert. The Holy See had previously approached conversion demands on a case-by-case basis. ''I am sure that this will enable the Catholic world to improve its knowledge of the spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions that make up the Anglican heritage'', said the pontiff. With some 77 million members, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion after the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

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