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Ecumenical Summit of Anglican and Catholic Bishops Starts Today in Rome

Today, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, bishops from the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions are gathering for Growing Together – a weeklong summit for ecumenical discussion and pilgrimage in Rome and Canterbury between 22 and 29 January 2024 (arrivals day 22).

The Summit is organised by IARCCUM, the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. IARCCUM is an official commission of the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. It is established to deepen the relationship between Anglicans and Catholics, based on the significant degree of theological agreement that has been reached over the years of dialogue and to promote shared mission. It is supported by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome and the Anglican Communion Office, Secretariat to the Anglican Communion.

The aim of this week’s summit is to strengthen bonds of friendship and commitment between Anglicans and Catholics for joint witness and mission in a fragmented world. The bishops are attending in Anglican and Catholic pairs. They will work towards a joint statement outlining how they will seek to walk together in mission and witness when they return home and particularly how they will encourage their colleagues to unite in greater collaboration between Anglicans and Catholics.

The summit will combine a series of conversations on themes including the situation of the churches and peoples in all the regions represented; synodality; authority and service; the environment; peace and reconciliation (especially in the Middle East, Sudan and South Sudan and Myanmar) and safeguarding.

During the week, bishops will also make pilgrimage visits to holy sites in both Rome and Canterbury, as they pray, reflect and learn from one another.

When in Rome (January 22-26), visits will include: St Peter’s Basilica for Anglican Choral Evensong; the church of San Bartolomeo on Tiber Island (the ‘Sanctuary of the New Martyrs’), where the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside and preach at an Anglican Eucharist; the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls; and a visit to the church of San Gregorio, from which St Gregory the Great dispatched St Augustine’s mission to England.

On January 25, near the tomb of the Apostle Paul at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury will commission the bishops, sending them out in pairs, to be witnesses to Christian Unity. This will be a significant moment in the programme, symbolic for Anglican-Catholic bonds and advancing ecumenical dialogue.

In Canterbury (January 26-29), bishops will continue discussions, participate in a candlelit tour in Canterbury Cathedral, the Saturday Vigil Mass in St Thomas of Canterbury parish church, and the Sunday Choral Eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral, where Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong will preach.

Over 50 bishops are participating in Anglican and Catholic pairs – representing different countries from around the world, including: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Egypt, and North Africa, England, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Malawi, Melanesia, Mexico, Middle East, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, USA, and the West Indies.

The Summit will be co-chaired by Archbishop Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, Canada and Bishop David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe. They shared their hopes for the summit.

Archbishop Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, Canada said: “Anglican and Roman Catholics have been in dialogue at an international level for 55 years. They have achieved consensus and convergence on key elements that separated them in the past, but in large part the achievements of the dialogue have not transformed our relationship on the local level. IARCCUM aims to build on that history of dialogue by encouraging pairs of bishops in different parts of the world to help their churches to creatively and faithfully live out the degree of communion we share. Gathering for the “Growing Together” Summit in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we feel Christ’s desire that we learn from each other and bear witness together to God’s redeeming love for the world.”

Bishop David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe said: “Growing Together is not only an exciting ecumenical programme, it is unique in the ecumenical world. Driven forward by the significant degree of theological agreement which has been reached, bishop pairs will share what joint mission looks like in their contexts. We have bishops travelling from all over the world to take part in this important discussion and time of commitment. Saint Paul, in Galatians 6:2, teaches us to share one another’s burdens. This summit will be a safe space for us as bishops to share our challenges with one another, to discover how much the joys and sorrows of episcopal ministry is shared, to pray for each other and for our home countries and find ways to lead our churches to make a real difference to the lives of the peoples of our nations and our world.”

Following today’s discussions, the bishops will make their first pilgrimage visit to St Peter’s Basilica for a tour and a service of Anglican Choral Evensong.

Source: Anglican Communion Office 23/01/2024

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