Virginia Johnstone has died peacefully at a venerable age, well into her 90s. She had a long and very influential role in the setting up and support of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Virginia had been secretary to Archdeacon Bernard Pawley, who was Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s representative to the Second Vatican Council, living with Bernard and Margaret Pawley in accommodation supplied by the American Church in Rome, St Paul’s within the Walls.


The proposal to set up the Centre came during the historic visit of Archbishop  Ramsey to Pope Paul IV and was followed quite soon afterwards by the setting up of the Friends of the Centre chaired by Sir Derek Pattinson, then General Secretary to the General Synod.   Virginia was the obvious person to be secretary and almost immediately became the driving force behind it.   Former staff at Lambeth Palace remember Virginia sweeping into the offices with great panache, full of friendship and fun. Her great skill was to spot people who might be interested and then draw them in to become members and supporters. Many of these were her personal friends, and many others soon became personal friends.  Virginia had a wide range of contacts, acquaintances and friends who found it difficult to resist her persuasive skills.


She believed that having drawn people in it was important to give them something that gave them a sense of belonging. To this end there were basically two meetings a year: one in London at Westminster Abbey shortly before Christmas which consisted of a Eucharist followed by a meeting with wine and nibbles and a speaker in the Jerusalem Chamber.  The other in the Spring took place somewhere outside London and involved a lunch followed by a meeting with a speaker.    


Virginia will be fondly remembered for her tremendous energy and vigour, and she certainly kept the work of the Centre before the minds of many people over many years. We have much to be grateful for in her life and service. She was awarded the Cross of St Augustine by Archbishop Rowan Williams in 2004. May she rest in peace. 


With thanks to The Rt Revd Edward Holland, The Rt Revd Dr Stephen Platten, and Dr James Thomson.