The connections between Lambeth Palace and the Vatican have grown stronger in recent years, not least because of the role of the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. As the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal representative to the Holy See, the Director is a permanent presence in Rome, enabling contact to be continuous between Vatican officials and the Anglican Communion and its primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Personal relations


Much of the progress made is due to the personal connections between recent popes and archbishops. During the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, Rowan Williams held the position of Archbishop of Canterbury and the two shared many intellectual interests. As Archbishop, Rowan made several visits to Rome. But it was Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK in 2010 that made history: it was the first state visit by a pope to the United Kingdom. Among its highlights was evensong at Westminster Abbey, presided over by Archbishop Williams and Pope Benedict, with a large number of Vatican officials also attending. The two church leaders prayed together at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor.


Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis have also developed a strong bond and their time in office has exactly overlapped. Archbishop Justin was installed as Archbishop of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral just days after the installation of Pope Francis at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in March 2013.


Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian Unity


Among those attending Archbishop Welby’s installation were several guests from Rome, including Fr Tony Currer of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian Unity (PCPCU). The Pontifical Council was founded in 1966 after the Second Vatican Council and focuses on developing dialogue and collaboration with other churches and world communions. It is the chief body within the Vatican that deals with ecumenical matters and is the Vatican organisation with which the Anglican Centre and Lambeth are in closest contact. Fr Currer, an English Roman Catholic priest, works closely with the Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the PCPCU and Bishop Brian Farrel, its secretary.


Dicastery for Integral Human Development


Another key Vatican department for Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Centre is the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. This department was created by Pope Francis in 2016 and began work in 2017. It brings together the four previous departments of Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers and Cor Unum for Human Development.


Its focus is the teaching of the church on issues of justice and human dignity and it also looks at practical ways that the faithful and the church can help both spiritually and materially those who are most vulnerable: the victims of slavery and trafficking, for example, and those in prison, those who are migrants, those who are sick and those who are victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters. Its particular commitment to helping

Victims of trafficking and modern slavery mirrors one of

Archbishop Welby’s chief concerns as well.


Mutual concern for those affected by armed conflict was also evident when Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis met the leaders of South Sudan in April 2019 at the Vatican. Archbishop Welby led a retreat for ecclesiastical and political represenatives of the war-torn country at the Casa Santa Marta where Pope Francis lives, and the Pope gave the concluding discourse of the retreat.


Seven months later, when Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby met with ACR Director Archbishop Ian Ernest on the day of his installation, they announced their wish to visit south Sudan together – an unprecedented joint pastoral visit by the leaders of the two churches.


Secretariat of State


The Vatican retreat for South Sudan was jointly organized by Lambeth Palace and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See – the diplomatic department of the body with universal jurisdiction for the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. This department is another within the Vatican which Lambeth and the ACR deals with regularly over issues of common interest around the world. The Secretariat of State is involved in appointing Vatican diplomats as well as working with other international bodies such as the United Nations.


English College


Finally, another Rome institution – within its historic centre rather than in the Vatican which is of great significance for Lambeth is the English College, the Roman Catholic Seminary. The English College was once a hostel for pilgrims and that past finds its mirror in the present: archbishops of Canterbury always stay there when in Rome and visiting Pope Francis. It is a tradition that began after the Second Vatican Council and reflects the strong ecumenical ties between Lambeth and Rome.