Nineteen pairs of bishops have been named by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead joint missions to their home countries in the name of the undivided church.
Nineteen pairs of bishops have been named by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead joint missions to their home countries in the name of the undivided church. On 4 Oct 2016 the bishops, selected by the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) were commissioned by Pope Francis and the Most Rev. Justin Welby at a vespers service held at the Church of Saint Gregory on the Caelian Hill in Rome — the same church from which Pope Gregory sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize the English in the sixth century. “Fourteen centuries ago Pope Gregory sent the servant of God, Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, and his companions, from this holy place, to preach the joyful message of the Word of God,” Pope Francis said. “Today we send you, dear brothers, servants of God, with this same joyful message of his everlasting kingdom.” Archbishop Welby stated: “Our Saviour commissioned his disciples saying, ‘Peace be with you’. We too, send you out with his peace, a peace only he can give. May his peace bring freedom to those who are captive and oppressed, and may his peace bind into greater unity the people he has chosen as his own.” The Pope and Archbishop Welby asked each bishop to engage in an “ecumenical mission to those on the margins of society”; to “work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”; to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon; to be “artisans of healing and reconciliation in the power of the Gospel”, and to “go forth as pairs of pilgrims, returning to our home nations and regions to encourage common prayer, mission and witness”. Primates from across the Anglican Communion attended the commissioning, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. The bishops selected from the Anglican world come from across the church’s theological divide, with outspoken supporters and opponents of gay marriage such as the Bishop of Quebec, the Rt. Rev. Dennis Drainville, the Bishop of Northern Malawi, the Rt. Rev. Fanuel Magangani. The Bishop of Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt, a member of the conservative minority in the Episcopal Church of the USA was selected as was the Bishop of Truro, the Rt. Rev. Tim Thornton. None of the GAFCON primates, however, participated in the ceremony or were bishops selected from their provinces. The Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, the Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo told Agenzia Fides: “It is time for the Anglican Church of Ghana and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference to join hands to fight poverty, child trafficking, climate change and other social ills eating into the fabrics of the Ghanaian society”. In Ghana the two churches would “share ideas and work together”, he said for it is by “prayer, witnessing and mission together [we] will bring the two churches together at the service of humanity.” The ceremony was part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the meeting between Pope Paul IV and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, the first meeting of a Bishop of Rome and Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, said: “we’re here not simply to celebrate. We’re here to rededicate to rededicate ourselves and our churches in our communities to the work of Jesus [by] following in his footsteps to make sure that children do not go to bed hungry [and to] proclaim the good news of Jesus to all creation to help to make followers of Jesus Christ.”