16 September 2016
Francis and Welby show that disagreements don't have to be a paralysing
Catholic and Anglican leaders can work together to heal the divisions in each other's churches
When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joins Pope Francis in Assisi next week to mark the 30th anniversary of the first World Day of Prayer in 1986 the similarities between the two religious leaders will be brought into sharp focus. They are both conflict resolvers who prefer to roll up their sleeves rather than talk theology. And both were surprise choices when selected for their roles which they started within a week of each other.
Since then Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury have looked for common causes to work on such as tackling human slavery with all this on the agenda when the pair come together for two successive meetings in the coming weeks.
But what is likely to be at the forefront of their encounters is how denominations can work together to resolve global conflicts while helping one another heal divisions in their own churches.
The first meeting between them is next Tuesday at a prayer gathering for religious leaders in Assisi. The Pope and the Archbishop will take part in discussions about global conflicts, have lunch with victims of war and sign an appeal for peace. It marks 30 years since John Paul II famously brought 160 religious representatives together to fast and pray for a colourful event where then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, chatted with the Dalai Lama while Muslim prayer mats were laid out next to a Zoroastrian sacred fire...
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