2016-10-03 08:00:00

San Gregorio garden: practical sign of ecumenical progress

(Vatican Radio) Hidden behind an ancient church on one of the seven hills of Rome, a new secret garden has been brought to life by members of the different English speaking churches in the Eternal City.

On Wednesday October 5th, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will pray together at Vespers in the church of St Gregory on the Caelian hill to celebrate the significant progress that has been made in Anglican-Catholic relations over the past half century.

The church and monastery, run by the Benedictine Camaldoli community, have a special place in the history of Christianity in England and it’s here that the new garden has been developed, next door to a home for the elderly run by sisters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

The ecumenical garden project (ecumenicalgarden.blogspot.com) was the brainchild of Rev Dana English, assistant chaplain at All Saints Anglican church in Rome. She talked to Philippa Hitchen about the aims of the project and about the significance of the church of St Gregory for Anglican-Catholic relations…


Rev Dana explains how the church was originally the family villa of Pope Gregory the Great, who was a very capable Prefect for the city of Rome before being elected to the papacy.

She recalls the legend of Pope Gregory seeing the young English slave boys being sold in the market and being moved to send a delegation of monks to re-evangelise the country. Since it was from the monastery of St Gregory that Augustine and his monks were sent out on mission to England, the church has become a focal point for meetings between popes and archbishops of Canterbury over recent decades.

She says this latest encounter of Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby, for the celebration of Vespers on October 5th, is a “timely meeting and a joyful occasion” as they will jointly commission Anglican and Catholic bishops from around the world to go out and share the Gospel together.

Alongside the architectural treasures of the church on the Caelian hill with its ancient Roman artefacts, Rev Dana says the monastery garden now provides “an oasis of peace” and a practical symbol of Christians “working side by side to further a cause they hold in common”. 

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