The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury together sent 19 pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops back to their home dioceses last week to promote joint prayer, joint proclamation of the Gospel and, especially, joint works of charity and justice.

“Today we rejoice to commission them and send them forth in pairs as the Lord sent out the 72 disciples,” Pope Francis and the archbishop said in a common declaration signed at the end of an evening prayer service.

The 38 bishops, who are part of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission, included Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth and the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Rt Reverend Tim Thornton.

“Let the message go out from this holy place, as the Good News was sent out so many centuries ago, that Catholics and Anglicans will work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon,” the Pope and archbishop said.

The Vespers service, in Latin and English, was celebrated at Rome’s Church of St Gregory on the Caelian Hill, the church from which St Gregory the Great sent St Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow monks to evangelise England in 597.

In his homily, Francis said that God wanted the unity of his people “and desires, especially, that pastors devote themselves to this”. Unfortunately, he said, over the course of history, “we have lost sight of the brother who was alongside us, we have become incapable of recognising him and of rejoicing over the gifts and grace we each have received.”

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