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Former primate of Burundi announced by Lambeth Palace as new leader of Anglican Centre in Rome

18 March 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

First African Anglican representative to Holy See Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi underlines importance of Catholic relations to Welby

An archbishop from Burundi will become the Archbishop of Canterbury’s first African representative to the Holy See and leader of the Anglican Centre in Rome. 

Lambeth Palace on Friday announced the appointment of Burundi’s former “primate”, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi - a move that underlines the importance that Archbishop Justin Welby places on relations with the Catholic Church.  

The new representative succeeds New Zealander Archbishop David Moxon who was the most senior Church figure to hold the post while Archbishop Welby has now designated that his representative in Rome should be someone who has led an important episcopal see.  

“The appointment of a former primate to this post for the second time running demonstrates the importance I attach to developing the increasingly close relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church,” the archbishop said today. “Archbishop Bernard has played an immensely valuable role in the life of the Anglican Communion.”

The new Anglican Centre director led the church in Burundi from 2005 until 2016 and has been a member of numerous ecumenical bodies including the World Council of Churches and has recently been mediating peace in war-torn Burundi and the great Lakes region of Africa.

The archbishop’s new job in Rome requires him both to build relations with the Vatican while also finding areas where the Churches can work together. Under Archbishop Moxon, Catholics and Anglicans collaborated on combatting human trafficking while a possible joint visit to South Sudan by the Pope and Archbishop Welby is currently under consideration. 

Following his ordination in 1973 Archbishop Ntahoturi joined the civil service in his home country, eventually becoming chief of staff to President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, a former soldier and de facto dictator of Burundi who took over the country in a coup. Then, following the 1987 military coup that in turn overthrew President Bagaza, Ntahoturi was jailed for three years. 

Born in 1948, Ntahoturi grew up in a poor farming family in Southern Burundi and after initial training in Uganda came to England were he studied at Ridley Hall and St John’s Cambridge and then at Lincoln College, Oxford. 

“I am honoured and delighted to be chosen for this role, and am looking forward to continuing the work of the dedicated men who have held this post before me,” he said on his appointment. “I would like to strengthen those areas, especially in peace building, where the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church can work together for a common witness so that the world may believe and God glorified.”

The Anglican Centre has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary which included a renewed push for unity and a visit to Rome from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby where he met the Pope. And on Monday history was made when Anglican evensong was sung in St Peter’s Basilica.

The centre, which was established following Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s historic meeting with Pope Paul VI, is located in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a 1,000-room building which is home to one of Rome’s finest renaissance art collections including two paintings by Caravaggio and one by Titian.

Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilj and her English husband, Frank Pogson - both Catholics - were keen to build ecumenical relations and were the ones who welcomed the Anglican Centre into the palazzo. Their children, Prince Jonathan and Princess Gesine, have continued the tradition. 

PICTURE - Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi pictured with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby



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