Pope Francis (right) shakes hands with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican in 2013 © Pool/AFP/File / Alessandra Tarantino
Pope to pray with Anglican chief in 500-year first
Rome, Italy, Oct 4 – The Pope and the head of the Church of England will say prayers together for the first time since England’s break from Rome gave rise to the Anglican church, the Vatican announced Monday.
The historic and hugely symbolic move will come on Wednesday at vespers, or evening prayers, in the ancient church of San Gregorio al Celio in the Italian capital.
It will be the first time a pontiff has joined an Archbishop of Canterbury in joint public prayer since the schism in 1534 was triggered by English monarch Henry VIII’s clash with Rome.
The Archbishop, Justin Welby, will be granted a private audience by Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday morning.
The two clerics have met four times before, most recently at last month’s interfaith seminar in Assisi in central Italy, said the Anglican Centre in Rome.
The centre was set up in 1966 to foster rapprochement between the two churches and it will this week mark its 50th anniversary with a conference of bishops from both traditions.
Closer ties with other faiths and branches of Christianity have been a priority for Francis since he became pope in 2013.
He met top Orthodox cleric Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in February and he is due in Sweden in October as a guest of the Lutheran church for events marking 500 years since the start of the Protestant reformation.