Early in October, Anglican clergy and laity from all over the world gathered in Rome to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Anglican Centre. The Anglican Centre in Rome was established following the important meeting between Archbishop Michael Ramsay and Pope Paul VI in 1966. During the last 50 years, the Anglican Centre has been at the centre of ecumenical relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. The present Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury both have a heart for a stronger ecumenical relationship, acknowledging that the barriers to full communion are not insignificant.
The recent celebrations in Rome included a fascinating colloquium at the Gregorian University, bringing together significant theologians and sociologists who reflected on recent developments and future challenges in ecumenism. The Archbishop of Canterbury also hosted a gala dinner at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. In a week that included many profound moments and events, Fr Daniel Dries, Rector of Christ Church St Laurence, felt that the most significant and moving event was a service of Ecumenical Vespers at the Monastery of San Gregorio al Celio. This beautiful service was held in the Monastery where St Augustine was the Prior, before being sent to Canterbury with his monks in 597AD. The service was led by His Holiness, Pope Francis, and His Grace, Archbishop Justin Welby. Magnificent music, representing both traditions, was provided by the choirs of the Sistine Chapel and Canterbury Cathedral. During the service, the Pope and the Archbishop exchanged significant gifts, including the Archbishop of Canterbury being presented with a crozier, which is a replica of the crozier presented by Pope St Gregory the Great to St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. For Fr Daniel, the highlight of this beautiful service was witnessing the Pope and the Archbishop blessing the congregation simultaneously. Fr Daniel was also honoured to meet Archbishop Justin Welby, and to assure him of the prayers and best wishes from Anglicans in Sydney.
Fr Daniel was also greatly moved by the presence at the celebrations of members of the Community of St Anselm. The Community of St Anselm is a 'monastic-inspired' community resident at Lambeth Palace. The Community of St Anselm is made up 45 young people between the ages of 20–35. In a week that inevitably focussed on the hurts and divisions of previous generations, there was something powerfully hopeful about the presence of these young people, who seemed to embody an infectious enthusiasm and a gentle spiritual presence.
Fr Daniel describes the events in Rome as a 'once in a lifetime experience'. More importantly, it was a powerful reminder that we are part of an incredibly diverse and energetic worldwide communion, and an even more diverse and enlivened universal church.