During his Sunday visit to Rome’s Anglican parish of All Saints, Pope Francis voiced gratitude for the good relations Catholics and Anglicans now enjoy, and said that on the path toward full communion, humility has to be the point of departure.
“(Humility) is not only a beautiful virtue, but a question of
identity,” the Pope said in his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican parish of
He noted that in evangelizing the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul had
to “grapple” with the fact that relations with the community weren’t
always good. But when faced the question of how to carry out the task
despite ongoing tensions, “where does he begin? With humility.”
“Paul sees himself as a servant, proclaiming not himself but Christ
Jesus the Lord. And he carries out this service, this ministry according
to the mercy shown him,” he said, adding that this ministry is done
“not on the basis of his ability, nor by relying on his own strength,
but by trusting that God is watching over him and sustaining his
weakness with mercy.”
To become humble, he said, “means drawing attention away from
oneself, recognizing one’s dependence on God as a beggar of mercy: this
is the starting point so that God may work in us.”
Francis then quoted a former president of the World Council of
Churches, who described Christian evangelization as “a beggar telling
another beggar where he can find bread.”
“I believe Saint Paul would approve,” he said, because “he grasped
the fact that he was fed by mercy and that his priority was to share his
bread with others: the joy of being loved by the Lord, and of loving
Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of both Catholic and Anglican faithful
during his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican church of All Saints, which
marked the first time a Roman Pontiff has set foot in an Anglican parish
inside his own diocese of Rome.
This visit coincided with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of
the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City, and
consisted of a short choral Evensong service, during which the Pope
blessed and dedicated an icon of “St. Savior” commissioned for the
During the ceremony, the symbolic “twinning” of All Saints Anglican
Church with the Catholic parish of “Ognissanti” – the only Catholic
parish in Rome dedicated to All Saints – also took place, forming strong
ecumenical ties between the two.
Ognissanti is the parish where Bl. Paul VI, on March 7, 1965,
celebrated the first Mass in Italian following the liturgical reforms of
the Second Vatican Council.
After his arrival, Pope Francis was greeted by the church's pastor,
Rev. Johnathan Boardman, and Rev. Robert Innes, Bishop of the Church of
England Diocese in Europe.
In his greeting, Innes thanked Pope Francis for his “global
leadership, and for the particular inspiration you have been to those of
us in the Anglican Communion,” particularly when it comes to the issues
of the poor, migrants, refugees, and human trafficking.
“Within Europe and our diocese, you have challenged members of the
European Union to rediscover their Christian heritage and values. Your
published work speaks far beyond Rome in addressing difficult ethical
issues that face us all,” he said.
Innes voiced his hope and prayer that the Pope’s visit would be “one
more small step in further strengthening the unity between our churches
and in celebrating the deep bonds of Anglican Roman Catholic friendship
that we already enjoy.”
After singing Evensong, Pope Francis gave a homily, during which he
noted that “a great deal has changed” both in Rome and in the world
since the parish’s founding 200 years ago.
“In the course of these two centuries, much has also changed between
Anglicans and Catholics,” he said, noting that while in the past the
Churches viewed each other “with suspicion and hostility,” today we
recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ,
through our common baptism.”
Francis pointed to the icon he blessed, noting that when looking at
it, Jesus “to call out to us, to make an appeal to us: ‘Are you ready to
leave everything from your past for me? Do you want to make my love
known, my mercy?’”
“His gaze of divine mercy is the source of the whole Christian
ministry,” the Pope said, and turned to the ministry of St. Paul,
particularly in the community of Corinth.
As the Apostle’s letters show, he “did not always have an easy
relationship” with the community in Corinth, the Pope said, noting that
at one point there was even “a painful visit” during which “heated
words” were exchanged in writing.
But by living his ministry in light of the mercy that he’s received,
St. Paul “does not give up in the face of divisions, but devotes himself
to reconciliation,” Francis observed, explaining that Christians of
different confessions must have the same attitude.
“When we, the community of baptized Christians, find ourselves
confronted with disagreements and turn towards the merciful face of
Christ to overcome it, it is reassuring to know that we are doing as
Saint Paul did in one of the very first Christian communities,” he said.
The Pope then noted how at perhaps the most difficult moment St. Paul
had with the community in Corinth, the Apostle cancelled a trip he was
planning to make, and renounced the gifts he would have received.
However, while there were certainly tensions in their relationship,
“these did not have the final word,” Francis said, explaining that the
two communities eventually reconciled and the Christians in Corinth
eventually helped St. Paul in his ministry to the poor and needy.
“Solid communion grows and is built up when people work together for
those in need,” he said, adding that “through a united witness to
charity, the merciful face of Jesus is made visible in our city.”
Pope Francis then voiced his gratitude that after “centuries of
mutual mistrust,” Catholics and Anglicans can now “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,” he said.
Although the path to full communion can at times seem “slow and
uncertain,” the Pope said the two communities ought to be encouraged by
his visit to the Anglican parish and the joint prayer.
The visit, he said, “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.”
Francis closed his homily encouraging both Catholics and Anglicans to
work together “to become ever more faithful disciples of Jesus, always
more liberated from our respective prejudices from the past and ever
more desirous to pray for and with others.”
After his homily, Pope Francis took three questions from the
congregation on the state of Catholic-Anglican relations today, his
approach to relations versus that of his direct predecessor Benedict XVI
and what Catholics and Anglicans can learn from the “creativity” of
Churches in the global south, specifically Africa and Asia.
In his answer to the first question, the Pope noted that despite a
turbulent past, relations between Catholics and Anglicans today “are
good. We see each other as brothers.” He added that monasteries and the
communion of Saints are two particular “strengths” the Churches have in
He also stressed the importance of not taking certain moments of
history out of context and using them as ammo to damage current
relations, saying “a historic fact must be read in the hermeneutic of
that moment, not in another hermeneutic.”
In the second question it was asked if Pope Francis, by emphasizing a
strategy of “walking and working” together toward unity was perhaps the
opposite of Benedict XVI, who at one point warned that collaboration in
social action shouldn’t take priority over theological matters.
Francis responded to the question with a joke told to him by
Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, that while the different
Churches work together on other things, the theologians “can go to an
island” and have their discussions there.
Theological questions are important, he said, noting that there are “many things in which we still don’t agree.”
But having this discussion “can’t be done in a laboratory, it has to
be done walking,” he said, explaining that “we are on a journey.”
It’s important to have these theological discussions, “but in the
meantime we help each other” though acts of charity such as serving the
poor, migrants and refugees, he said, adding that “you can’t have
ecumenical dialogue that is stopped...you have to do it walking.”
When responding to the third question, Pope Francis noted that “young
Churches” in Africa and Asia do have “a different vitality because they
are different and they look for ways to express themselves
However, the “older Churches” in European countries, also have their
own benefits, he said, noting that they have had time to “mature” and
deepen in many things, including theological and ecumenical questions.
The Pope acknowledged that young Churches “have more creativity,”
just as the European Church did when it began, and said there is “a
strong need” for the two – old and young – to collaborate together.
As an example, he revealed that he is considering a trip to South
Sudan sometime this year, and explained that the idea came from a recent
visit the heads of three major Christian churches in the country to
In October Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of the Catholic Archdiocese
of Juba traveled to Rome alongside ev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop
of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and
Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of
South Sudan, to explain the dire situation of their country, and their
joint collaboration in working to quell the effects of the crisis.
Pope Francis noted that during his Oct. 27, 2016, meeting with the
three, they invited him to come, but told him “don’t do it alone,” and
requested that he make the trip alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion.
He said the trip hasn’t been confirmed since situation on the ground
is so risky, but assured that it’s “being studied,” because each of the
Churches there “have the will to work for peace” together.
The Pope ended his answer to the question with the suggestion that,
given the benefits of both the “old” and “young” Churches throughout the
world, there be an exchange set up where priests from Europe travel to
the “younger Churches” for a pastoral experience, rather than it always
being the other way around.
“It would do us well,” he said, “You learn a lot.”