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"Called to be Jesus Partners" - Anglican and Catholic Summit in Canterbury

Posted on: January 29, 2024 9:23 AM
Photo Credit: ACNS/Neil Turner

The bishops of the ‘Growing Together’ ecumenical summit have travelled from Rome to Canterbury, for the second phase of their programme. The summit coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and run from January 22-29. 

Meeting in Anglican and Catholic bishop pairs, it has been a week seasoned with themes of friendship, conversation and journeying together.

The bishops have explored the importance of listening and learning from one another, celebrating what they have in common and how faith traditions can work together as partners in the gospel.

This sense of partnership was celebrated most significantly on January 25, when Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned the bishops in joint mission, during Vespers, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the church of Saint Paul Outside The Walls.

The summit has seen the bishops pilgrimage to holy sites in both Rome and Canterbury. On their last day in Rome, they prayed at the church of San Gregorio al Celio – from where Pope Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine to England in 597 to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and the Co-Chairs of the ecumenical summit (Archbishop Donald Bolen and Bishop David Hamid) stood beside the Chair of Pope Gregory the Great. Whilst in Canterbury, time was also spent at St Augustine’s Chair, the ceremonial enthronement cathedra chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Canterbury phase of the programme has involved continued discussions on church and world affairs. The bishops participated in a candlelit tour of Canterbury Cathedral, visiting the altar of the martyr Thomas Becket. They have attended Vigil Mass at the Parish Church of St Thomas of Canterbury where Archbishop Chris Cardone presided (from the Archdiocese of Honiara in the Solomon Islands), and Bishop Bruce Myers (Bishop of Quebec) preached.

Cardinal Stephen Chow Saau-yan preaches at Canterbury Cathedral

Cardinal Stephen Chow Saau-yan preaches at Canterbury Cathedral as part of the ‘Growing Together’ ecumenical summit
Photo: Neil Turner

During Sunday, the bishops attended sung Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral, where Cardinal Stephen Chow Saau-yan (Bishop of Hong Kong) preached. In his Sermon, the Cardinal said:

“Jesus has brought us together here. The same Lord has graced us with an array of rich experiences that should prompt our hearts and move us into ecumenical actions. I recall the heart wrenching experiences that were shared by my fellow bishops in Amazon, Middle East, Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan, et cetera, where martyrdom is a real possibility.

“We Anglicans and Roman Catholics are called to be Jesus partners, individually and collectively. The twelve apostles and disciples were not called to form camps, working for their own missions, or competing against each other. They were called to become an assembly, a community, a communion, a synodal koinonia, praying and discerning, teaching and serving for the mission of our Triune God.

“… May God's ever loving and ever inclusive mission of salvation….and what we have learned at this summit… enlighten us and spur us forward so that we can be counted as worthy mission partners of the Son of God. May God bless you, all my sisters and brothers in a church that is of Christ. Amen.”

The bishops spent time in the afternoon working on a joint statement on their common witness. The day concluded with Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral, at which the 10th anniversary of the Canterbury Girls’ Choir was also celebrated.

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