In the next few days a series of events in Rome will highlight recent developments in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion worldwide. The most symbolic and encouraging of these will be the meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby and the commissioning of 19 pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops from across the world. Alongside this, the Gregorian University will host a symposium on Anglican-Catholic relations in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome.
Despite the fresh challenges that have emerged in recent years, the commitment of our two communions to pray and work for the unity that our Lord wills for us is greater than ever. The obstacles to unity that we have encountered have made us aware that the road ahead is a long one – much longer than those who initiated our dialogue nearly 50 years ago might have expected.
But fresh challenges have also brought a sharper focus to our dialogue and a determination to find ever more creative ways of witnessing to what we hold in common.
One of those creative ways of witnessing is the commissioning of pairs of bishops from 19 different parts of the world where Anglican-Catholic cooperation is already well established or where it can be developed and strengthened. The mandate that they will receive from Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby will authorise and equip them to promote a wider range of opportunities for parishes and dioceses, pastors, Religious and Church leaders to work and witness together locally and nationally.
Among the bishops to be commissioned are the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton, and the Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, Bishop Mark O’Toole. Apart from encouraging our ongoing national dialogue (the English Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, known as English Arc), they will also be keen to foster some practical forms of cooperation among our bishops, especially following the national meeting of Anglican and Catholic bishops due to take place in Birmingham next January.
When Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin meet on October 5 they will encourage the work of Iarccum (the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission) and Arcic (the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) – the two complementary bodies that seek to carry forward our joint commitment to work and witness together in mission and service (Iarccum) and pursue the theological dialogue that seeks agreement about our ecclesial identity and mission (Arcic).
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