On Feb. 26, Pope Francis visited All Saints Anglican Church in Rome, the first time a pope has done so. You can read his homily here at the Salt and Light TV website.
Pope Francis said:
As Catholics and Anglicans, we are humbly grateful that, after centuries of mutual mistrust, we are now able to recognize that the fruitful grace of Christ is at work also in others. We thank the Lord that among Christians the desire has grown for greater closeness, which is manifested in our praying together and in our common witness to the Gospel, above all in our various forms of service. At times, progress on our journey towards full communion may seem slow and uncertain, but today we can be encouraged by our gathering. For the first time, a Bishop of Rome is visiting your community. It is a grace and also a responsibility: the responsibility of strengthening our ties, to the praise of Christ, in service of the Gospel and of this city.
Three years ago, I attended an ecumenical Evensong for Anglicans and Catholics at the Caravita, a Catholic parish in Rome. I had attended Mass there earlier that day, when I got this photo. It is a small, by Rome standards, church and very welcoming, so it reminded me of our little parish in Ottawa where “everybody knows your name” or will know it if you come for a visit. While at other parishes in Rome, the priests never seem to hang around to greet people, at this one, there was a reception with Easter bread and proseccco.
The Evensong later on was an intimate gathering with an even more lavish reception afterwards, so I got to meet some of the same Anglican prelates who were present at the Pope’s historic visit last month.
I went as a self-appointed, unofficial ambassador of the Ordinariates and found myself graciously received, except by one individual there who was visiting from the United Kingdom. One of the archbishops based in Rome said to me, “We consider you Catholic now,” when I broached some of the initial hard feelings about Anglicanorum coetibus.
Austen Ivereigh, one of the founders of Catholic Voices in the UK, and author of an interesting biography of Pope Francis The Great Reformer, wrote an interesting piece at Crux on Pope Francis’ visit.
But on Sunday, Francis was also setting forth his own, distinctive vision of how Christian unity is made, which constitutes a clear shift in emphasis from Benedict XVI’s ecumenism, with its stress on a common search for truth.
Instead he indicated three roads to Christian unity: an attitude of humility, shared prayer and actions witnessing to God’s mercy, and learning from the creativity and freedom of young Churches in the developing world.
The third point was one made in answer to a question from a Nigerian congregant about what the Churches can learn from developing-world ecumenism, where relations are often “better and more creative” than in Europe.
I can’t find the transcript of Pope Francis’ question and answer session right now. He is quoted as saying this:
“When people can’t go on Sunday to the Catholic celebration they go to the Anglican [church], and the Anglicans go to the Catholic [church], because they don’t want to spend Sunday without a celebration; and they work together,” the pope said, adding that “this is a richness that our young Churches can bring to Europe.”
Ivereigh specifically mentions that these churches were practicing inter-communion.
I met Austen in passing on that same trip to Rome in 2014, because he was a panelist at a seminar I took at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He’s always interesting, but I do not always agree with him. As I recall the Pope did not use the words “intercommunion” in his Q&A so I would caution readers not to overreact.