19 January 2024, The Tablet

Catholic and Anglican bishops to gather in Rome and Canterbury

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury will commission the bishops to go out “in pairs, to be witnesses to Christian unity”.

Catholic and Anglican bishops to gather in Rome and Canterbury

Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby commissioned Catholic and Anglican bishops at a joint service in San Gregorio al Celio in 2016.
Associated Press / Alamy

Catholic and Anglican bishops will hold an ecumenical summit in Rome and Canterbury for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

More than 50 bishops are set to participate over 22-29 January, arriving in pairs representing each denomination in 27 countries.

On 25 January, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will commission the bishops at the tomb of St Paul, in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls south of the centre of Rome. They will be sent out “in pairs, to be witnesses to Christian unity”, according to a statement from the Anglican Communion.

The service will recall Christ’s commission of the Apostles, when he gathered the Twelve “to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7), and the other disciples he “sent on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go” (Luke 10:1).

“This will be a significant moment, symbolic for Anglican-Catholic bonds and advancing ecumenical dialogue,” the Anglican Communion statement said.

The summit, “Growing Together”, has been organised by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), “to discuss ways of growing together in joint witness and mission in the world”.

It is chaired by Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina and Bishop David Hamid, a suffragan bishop in the Anglican Diocese in Europe, who will retire in February.

The Catholic attendees from the UK are Bishop Peter Collins of East Anglia and Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB of Aberdeen, the president of the Scottish bishops’ conference.

Their Anglican “pairs” are Bishop Stephen Race of Beverley and Bishop Ian Paton of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane.  Bishop Race is a suffragan bishop in the Province of York, responsible for those of its parishes that do not accept the ordination of women.

From Ireland, Bishop Niall Coll of Ossory will attend with his Church of Ireland counterpart, Bishop Adrian Wilkinson of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory.

The programme of discussions in Rome includes visits to holy sites, with an Anglican service of choral evensong in St Peter’s and a visit to the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, from which Pope Gregory the Great sent St Augustine of Canterbury to England in 597.

IARCCUM held a similar commissioning service in San Gregorio in October 2016, as part of an eight-day pilgrimage in Canterbury and Rome with 19 bishops.

The 2024 summit will move to Canterbury on 26-29 January, to discuss a joint statement on the future work of IARCCUM. Cardinal Stephen Chow SJ, the Bishop of Hong Kong, will preach at the Sunday choral eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral.

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