Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis to meet for 'World Day of Prayer for Peace'

01 September 2016 | by Christopher Lamb in Rome

The event marks 30 years since John Paul II famously brought together 160 religious representatives who fasted and prayed together for a day

The Archbishop of Canterbury will meet Pope Francis for a third time during an inter-religious gathering in Assisi later this month. 

Archbishop Justin Welby is to travel to the hilltop town in Umbria on 20 September for the “World Day of Prayer for Peace” attended by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist leaders. The meeting between the Pope and the archbishop takes place a few days before the two men meet again in Rome on 5 October.

The event in Assisi - organised by Catholic peace and humanitarian group Sant’Egidio - marks 30 years since John Paul II famously brought together 160 religious representatives who fasted and prayed together for a day, a tradition that was continued by his predecessors in the face of hostility from conservatives.  

Francis will arrive in Assisi for a day trip and be greeted by a group of faith leaders, including Archbishop Welby and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The day will include afternoon prayer in St Francis' basilica and the Vatican has announced that the religious leaders will also meet "victims of war".

The Pope will meet Archbishop Welby and others individually including two as yet unnamed Jewish and Muslim leaders and the event will conclude with a signing of an appeal for peace that will then be handed to children representing different parts of the globe.

Francis’ visit to Assisi will be his third since his election as Pope and follows soon after a private visit he made on the 4 August to mark the 800th anniversary of the “pardon of Assisi”, a feast which emphasises the forgiveness of sins. 

When Archbishop Welby travels to Rome in October he will take part in ecumenical vespers at San Gregorio al Celio, a church which is part of a monastery closely linked to St Augustine of Canterbury. Welby, who met with Francis in the Vatican on 14 June 2013 and again on 16 June 2014, is also expected to take part in an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome.  

Similarities have been drawn between the two religious leaders for their no-nonsense, evangelical and practical approach to Church leadership. But during the Greenbelt festival in Northamptonshire last week the archbishop joked that the Pope was “better than me” after being asked by a young child who would win in a fight between the two.

“For a lot of reasons, the Pope would (win),” Welby said. “He’s got a bigger stick than me. He’s got a bigger hat then me. He’s bigger then me. He’s better than me.” The archbishop added that when he first met the Pope, he was teased by him.  “[The Pope] looked at me and said: ‘I’m senior to you.’ He was winding me up but I thought he was being serious. I said, ‘Of course you are’, because I was terrified. And he said, it was because he’d started on the Thursday and I started on the Saturday, ‘by two days’."


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