This is the image of the week. Pope Francis receiving from Archbishop Welby his own pectoral cross, in an echo - and, as the photographer caught it, a very visual echo - of the gift, fifty years ago, of Pope Paul VI's own episcopal ring.
Even more significant, however, was Pope Francis' gift to the Archbishop of Canterbury: a pastoral staff, the head of which echoed and reflected the pastoral staff thought to be that of St Gregory the Great, the Pope who sent St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, to England. That Pope Francis had commissioned this specially for Archbishop Justin Welby, and had given it to him in the midst of a service carefully balanced to reflect elements of both Communions, cannot be over-estimated.
The service, at San Gregorio al Celio on October 5, was rich in significance. Canterbury Cathedral Choir had come to Rome to sing with the Sistine Chapel Choir. The music - Gregorian Chant and Anglican Chant, Parry and Palestrina, Tallis and Tye, plainsong and Stanford - told a story of interweaving cultural relationships. Three Anglican ordinands, on placement at Roman Catholic seminaries in Rome, served for the Pope - and were introduced by the Archbishop with the words, "Be careful, Your Holiness, these ones are Anglican."
At the service almost 40 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops were jointly commissioned and blessed by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They had been part of a week-long summit conference in Canterbury and Rome at which they had discussed how they, in particular, and Anglicans and Catholics, in general, could work together in their home countries on all the issues affecting the world and our churches.
Before the service on October 5, the Pontifical Gregorian University hosted a symposium at which the last fifty years of Anglican - Roman Catholic relations were discussed, and the hope for future growth and friendship was shared. Speakers from around the world discussed the challenges of their setting and the way in which Roman Catholics and Anglicans, working together, could help.
The evening of October 5 saw a glittering gala dinner in the art gallery of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Principe Jonathan and Principessa Gesine, whose family have hosted the Anglican Centre in the Palazzo since its inception, were both honoured by Archbishop Justin Welby before the serious work of enjoying the dinner began.
The dinner also marked the launch of the Golden Jubilee Appeal, a campaign to raise an endowment fund to enable the Anglican Centre to be financially secure into our next half-century.
With drinks in the courtile and the some of the early galleries, and dinner in the main rooms of the gallery, this was an evening never to be forgetten. Click on the picture below to see all of the photographs from that evening on our flickr account.
Over the course of those three days, many other events took place in Rome as people from across the world came to the support the Anglican Centre in its fiftieth anniversary. From watching dusk settle from the Aventine Hill to celebrating Morning Prayer at the Tomb of St Peter with the Archbishop of Canterbury, this was a week never to be forgotten.
The Anglican Centre in Rome is a UK
Charity with a world-wide mission.
The Director: Archbishop Ntahoturi
Deputy Director: Revd Marcus Walker
The Anglican Centre in Rome,
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj,
Piazza del Collegio Romano 2,
00186 Roma, Italy.
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