Catholic and Anglican bishops attended a service of Anglican choral evensong in St Peter’s in Rome, as part of the “Growing Together” symposium for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Bishops taking part in the ecumenical summit, who have come in Anglican and Catholic “pairs” from around the world, joined in the service on 23 January in the basilica’s choir chapel.
The Revd Canon Robert Warren of All Saints’ Church – the Anglican parish in Rome – officiated at the service, which was sung by a choir drawn from All Saints’ and the Episcopal Church of St Paul’s Within the Walls.
More than 50 bishops are attending the summit, working towards “a joint statement outlining how they will seek to walk together in mission and witness”. It has been organised by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
Fr Martin Browne OSB of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity said that the discussions aimed “to celebrate the richness of our traditions and to strengthen our bonds”.
“The rhythm of daily prayer based on the psalms and other scriptural texts is a precious treasure which Catholics and Anglicans share,” he said, noting how the dicastery’s Ecumenical Directory suggests that “participating in one another’s liturgical celebrations helps Christians to share more deeply in traditions which often have developed from common roots”.
Choral evensong is “a particularly beautiful expression of our shared tradition”, he added.
Pope Benedict XVI attended a service of evensong during his visit to the UK in 2010, when he said he visited Westminster Abbey “as a pilgrim from Rome, to pray before the tomb of St Edward the Confessor and to join you in imploring the gift of Christian unity”.
He subsequently invited Westminster Abbey’s choir to sing with the Sistine Chapel choir during Mass in St Peter’s in 2012.
St Peter’s first hosted evensong in March 2017, sung by the choir of Merton College, Oxford, where then-Archbishop Arthur Roche preached on Pope Gregory the Great, who sent St Augustine of Canterbury to England in 597 from the Church of San Gregorio al Celio.
In October 2016, IARCCUM held a “commissioning service” in the church during an ecumenical pilgrimage, with Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sending 19 bishops out “to be witnesses to Christian unity”.
The Pope and Archbishop Welby will conduct a similar service during this week’s summit, at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on 25 January.
Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Canada, the Catholic co-chair of the summit, said that it was intended to encourage the two denominations to “live out the degree of communion we share”.
“They have achieved consensus and convergence on key elements that separated them in the past, but in large part the achievements of the dialogue have not transformed our relationship on the local level,” he said.
His counterpart, Bishop David Hamid, a suffragan bishop of the Anglican Diocese in Europe, said that the “significant degree of theological agreement” between the Churches would allow the bishops to “share what joint mission looks like in their contexts”.
Dr Christopher Wells, director of Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion Office, said the bishops would “commit to shared ministry in every way possible [and] serve as pioneers on the way to the fullness of unity in faith, order, and witness”.