(This article first appeared in the October issue of the Anglican Journal.)
My desire of many years to visit Rome is finally being realized. This month, I will attend the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Renowned for its hospitality and educational programs, the centre has long been a venue for the writing and promotion of Anglican-Roman Catholic statements that have been foundational to our common quest for unity in mission. This anniver- sary features a colloquium on progress made through five decades of international dialogue, including the challenges and the opportunities of our own time.
It is said that this centre is “one of those singular corners of the religious world that reminds us that the connection between theology and good works relies on friendship.”
Through the years, there have been powerful gestures reflecting such friend- ship. It was 50 years ago that Pope Paul-VI gave his episcopal ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsay on March 24, 1966. Ramsay wore it till the day he died. Popes and archbishops in office at the same time have made pilgrimages to Rome and Canterbury respectively, visited shrines to the holy men and women of ages past, lit candles and knelt down together in prayer that the world be illumined by that peace of Christ.
Our churches have watched with awe and gratitude the friendship between John Paul II and Robert Runcie, George Carey and Rowan Williams; Benedict XVI and
Rowan Williams, and now Francis and Justin Welby.
For the Primates’ Meeting in January this year, Pope Francis loaned the much- treasured head of the crozier of Pope Gregory, who had sent Augustine to Eng- land in the year 597 AD. Its very presence was a sign of our common heritage and hope in Christ.
Such gestures are the stuff of friendship, not only between popes and primates, but also between bishops and priests and deacons and all the faithful who share a common baptism and are committed to working for the full visible unity of the church.
I look forward to this visit to Rome with all the anticipation of a pilgrim, eager to be in such a holy place, eager to meet new friends in the faith, and eager, I must con- fess, to meet the Holy Father. I so admire the simplicity and authenticity with which he endeavours to lead the church in the way of Christ. It is exemplary for us all.