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Pope, Anglican leader vow joint action on poverty and environment

Pope Francis smiles with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of vespers prayers at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome, on October 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile
Pope Francis smiles with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of vespers prayers at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome, on October 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis smiles with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of vespers prayers at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome, on Oct. 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile

ROME (Reuters) The heads of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches said on Wednesday (Oct. 5) they would work together to help the poor and protect the environment despite their unity being blocked by differences over women priests and gay marriage.

Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made the pledge in a joint statement at a vespers, or evening prayer service, in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of theological dialogue between the two churches in 1966.

“While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred,” the joint statement said, specifically mentioning the ordination of women and “more recent questions regarding human sexuality.”

Last January the Anglican Communion rebuked its liberal U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, for supporting same-sex marriage, a move that averted a formal schism in the world’s third-largest Christian denomination but left deep divisions unresolved.

The vespers were held in the same Rome church from where Pope Gregory I sent St. Augustine to convert the English in 597, nearly 1,000 years before King Henry VIII broke from Rome in 1534 to start the Church of England.

After 1534, there had been no meeting between an archbishop of Canterbury and a pope until 1966, when Michael Ramsey met Pope Paul VI.

In their joint declaration, Francis and Welby said their two churches could do much together despite “the imperfect union we already share.”

“We can, and must, work together to protect and preserve our common home: living, teaching and acting in ways that favor a speedy end to the environmental destruction that offends the Creator and degrades his creatures,” the joint declaration said.

They vowed to fight “a culture of waste” where the most vulnerable of people in society are marginalized and discarded and to work together to work for peace and bring education, health care, food, clean water and shelter to the poor.

The Anglican Communion counts some 85 million members and the Roman Catholic Church has about 1.2 billion.

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

11 Comments

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  • Both leaders recognize that addressing the plight of the poor is more important than fighting over sex.
    It’s a miracle!

  • The Anglican Church is not nearly as wealthy as the RCC but both could contribute $millions from their overstuffed coffers and possessions. It will be so exciting to see! Imagine all the African wells, homes for Dalits in India, sea walls in Bangladesh, etc. They could truly change the world by putting to use the millions they are sitting on, especially the RCC.

  • “Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury sought to bypass doctrinal disagreements over female ordination by not including a single woman among a group of Catholic and Anglican bishops being sent out to work on joint mission projects together. Both leaders admitted in a joint declaration that the obstacles to unity over women and gays are currently insurmountable although stressed they would continue “undeterred” with plans to bring their churches close together.”
    (thetablet.co.uk)

  • Just to clarify for those who may be confused, as I initially was: the person that Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) sent to convert the English was Augustine of Canterbury. Although Augustine of Canterbury was canonized, the person most often referred to only as “St. Augustine” was Augustine of Hippo, who died about 150 years before the Gregorian Mission.

  • Because discrimination against women is not that important. “It’s not important to BE like Jesus; it’s just important to PEE like Jesus.” RNB.

    Thanks Betty, for another example of religious sexism.

  • the green religion…the glue that bridges the gap between Christendom and the secular world. likely the mark of the beast (mandatory counterfeit Sabbath) will be tinged GREEN…

  • I heard Rita Nakashima Brock say it. Have you read any of her books? She’s very smart and researches extremely thoroughly. I have learned a great deal from her. She’s also a first rate speaker.

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