Promoting Christian unity in a divided world

(L to R): The Very Rev. Canon Richardson, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Photo: Anglican Centre in Rome
(L to R): The Very Rev. Canon Richardson, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Photo: Anglican Centre in Rome
Published October 5, 2012

From Oct. 13 to 18, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See, the Very Rev. Canon David Richardson, will visit Canada for the first time to raise the profile of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Richardson, who serves as director of the centre, will also meet with church leaders to explore the possibility of setting up an organization akin to The American Friends of the Anglican Centre in Rome, which fosters dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

Richardson’s visit is “very intentional,” said Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the national church’s co-ordinator for ecumenical relations. “He’s coming specifically to promote the work of the centre and its courses.”

Many Canadian Anglicans may not be aware of the centre, which functions as the Anglican Communion’s de facto embassy to the Vatican, and as a place of scholarship, learning and pilgrimage for Anglicans, said Myers in an interview.

The centre was established through a common declaration issued in 1966 by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey. The centre’s website describes it as a permanent Anglican Communion presence that “promotes Christian unity in a divided world.”

The centre is “a very important and visible symbol of [the Anglican Communion’s] commitment to continuing conversation with the Roman Catholic Church,” said Myers. “Even if we find ourselves in disagreement sometimes over some very important issues, we haven’t packed up our things and left.”

The centre symbolizes the Communion’s commitment to “a vision of the one church of Jesus Christ,” added the bishop of the diocese of Quebec, Dennis Drainville. [Richardson is arriving at the invitation of Drainville and Canon Peter Walker, rector of Grace Church on-the-hill, in Toronto.]

Myers, who is involved in the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in Canada, said Roman Catholics “attach great value” to the fact that the Communion has both an ambassador and a centre. “We’re one of a few churches that have a permanent presence in Rome,” he added.

A Canadian, Bishop John Baycroft of the diocese of Ottawa, was director of the centre from 1999 to 2001.

The centre director serves as a “two-way” ambassador between the Vatican and both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion, which is composed of over 70 million members representing 38 provinces (self-governing churches) around the world.

Drainville expressed the hope that Richardson’s visit would encourage more Canadians to study at the centre. “They’re remarkably good courses, often with renowned scholars and theologians,” he said in an interview. “There’s not a lot of Canadians that go because they just don’t know.”

Drainville himself has taken a course on ecumenical leadership at the centre, which was led by well-known ecumenical academic Dame Mary Tanner and Timothy Radcliffe, former head of the Dominican order and renowned Roman Catholic author and priest. The course included a visit to the Vatican, where participants gained a better understanding the decision-making process within the Roman Catholic church.

The centre also has “one of the best libraries on ecumenism,” Drainville said, adding that it has become a place where Catholics and Anglicans meet. Anglicans across the Communion also get an opportunity to meet “and become pilgrims” when they take the courses, which includes opportunities for worship. “It’s an amazingly hospitable place to go,” he said.

During his visit, Richardson will meet with the diocese of Toronto’ College of Bishops, speak at a clergy day at the diocese of Niagara, and meet with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. He will also preach at two services at Grace Church On-the-hill, and the Cathedral of St. James, both in Toronto.

Prior to his appointment as director, Richardson, 67, was dean of two Anglican cathedrals in Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia. He is dean emeritus of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne and is one of the four provincial canons of Canterbury.

Richardson has announced that he will retire at Easter 2013, after which time he would have served for five years in the position.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has paid tribute to Richardson’s work, saying he has “done a great deal to consolidate a wide range of warm relationships with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.” Williams said Richardson has been an “outstanding director” who played a key role in two historic events-the 2008 Lambeth Conference and the 2010 papal visit to the U.K.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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