The Archbishop of Canterbury will meet and have lunch with Pope Francis today, in what will be the pair’s fourth meeting together in in the Vatican.
Archbishop Justin Welby travelled to Rome to formally commission his new Personal Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, which took place during evensong last night.
This morning Archbishops Welby and Ntahoturi will meet with Francis and will then go to the Pope’s residence, the Casa Santa Marta. It is not common for Francis to invite people he meets for official audiences to lunch so the gesture can be read as a sign of the warmth and ease of the relationship that exists between the Pope and Welby.
The 80-year-old Pope has said Christians should act as though they are “already united” and has made unprecedented ecumenical gestures throughout his papacy such as travelling to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and apologising to Evangelicals in Italy for their mistreatment by Catholics.
When it comes to Anglicans, the Pope and the Archbishop have a shared focus on how the churches can come to together to address the major crises facing humanity. Both of them took up their respective ministries within the same week in 2013 and both are known for a leadership approach that stresses action rather than words.
More recently, Francis and Welby have been in discussions about undertaking an historic peace mission to the war torn South Sudan, although this has been put on hold due to the security problems and the complex political situation.
@AnglicanCentre tweeted: 'Wonderful to have in Rome to install our new Director. +Paul Gallagher, an old friend of +Bernard, preached very movingly
For his part, Archbishop Ntahoturi, a former Primate in Burundi, has long experience of reconciliation work and has talked about how he would like to make it a focus for his time in Rome.
He also knows Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, from the time that the British papal diplomat served as nuncio in Burundi. Last night, at the Oratorio di San Francesco Saverio del Caravita - known in Rome as “Caravita” - Archbishop Gallagher preached, and later pointed out that he had attended Ntahoturi’s installation as Primate of the Anglican Church in Burundi.
Among those in Rome for the commissioning yesterday evening was Cardinal Kurt Koch, President for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Archbishop Bernard Longley, co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and Bishop Stephen Platten, Chair of the Anglican Centre in Rome.
The service in Caravita was followed by a reception in the centre’s newly refurbished offices located in a suite of rooms in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a 1,000-room palace home to one of Rome’s larges private art collections including works by Titian and Caravaggio.