2016-03-22 17:46:00

Rome's Anglican Centre kicks off 50th anniversary celebrations

(Vatican Radio) Fifty years ago, on March 22nd 1966, a new centre was set up in the heart of Rome dedicated to the building up of Anglican-Catholic dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey presided at the dedication ceremony in the ancient Doria Pamphilj palace, the day before his first historic encounter with Pope Paul VI that took place in the Sistine Chapel.

Exactly half a century on, Christians of many different denominations gathered in the Anglican Centre chapel on Tuesday to give thanks for those events and to commit themselves anew to the task of reconciling their divided Churches.

Philippa Hitchen was there and sent this report….


For the past five decades Rome’s Anglican Centre has been a place of encounter and study, of hospitality and shared worship. Its impressive library is used by students, visiting clergy and anyone interested in finding out more about Anglican history, doctrine and ecumenical relations. Its director represents the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and marks a crucial point of contact between the Anglican Communion and the wider Catholic world.

The current director is New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon, who sees the principle task of the Centre as putting into practice the wealth of theological progress that has been achieved since the Second Vatican Council.

“We’re meant to be a living embodiment of that hope, a shopfront window….and that means 24/7 asking questions about how we can share each other’s gifts, how we can motivate each other and increase our mutual capacity together in the cause of the Kingdom of God…”

To celebrate the past five decades of growing together in faith, Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, Methodists and Presbyterian priests, religious and lay people gathered in the Centre’s chapel dedicated to St Augustine of Canterbury. As part of the Holy Week celebrations, the oils to be used throughout the coming year were blessed, as men and women priests and ministers renewed their ordination vows together.

Presiding over the liturgy was Bishop Stephen Platten, chairman of the governors of the Anglican Centre. He told me why it’s so important to remember these events of 50 years ago and especially the role played by Pope Paul VI in Anglican-Catholic relations.  

“Paul VI visited England in the 1930s, he enjoyed cathedral worship…and then in the 1950s, when he was the cardinal archbishop of Milan, a group of four Anglican priests came and stayed with him, so he had a knowledge of Anglicanism that no other pope, before or since, has had.”

Speaking to leaders of the Anglican Centre half a century ago, Pope Paul stressed that “knowledge prepares the way for love: love leads to unity”. Later this year the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be be meeting with Pope Francis to renew their commitment to the ecumenical journey: because that vision of promoting knowledge, love and a desire for unity remains as urgent as ever, in this 50th anniversary year.

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