Sunday, March 12, 2006

Canterbury and Rome on road to heal rift of centuries
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
March 11, 2006

DR ROWAN WILLIAMS, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is expected to make his first formal visit to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome this year in an attempt to heal the centuries-old rift between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

The two church leaders are expected to attend at least one service together, probably vespers at the basilica of St Paul’s-Without-The-Walls.

The meeting, which awaits confirmation from Rome, is being organised to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the meeting in 1966 between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Williams still wears the ring given by the Pope to Lord Ramsey on that visit.

At the meeting, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury will also begin the third round of formal talks between the two churches. Senior Catholics in Britain admit that relations between the two churches have reached a “plateau”.
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Road to Rome
The Archbishop of Canterbury should encourage dialogue

The road from Lambeth Palace to the Vatican is reasonably well travelled these days. George Carey, as Archbishop of Canterbury, met Pope John Paul II six times. Dr Rowan Williams was in Rome for the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI last year and is expected to return later this year for his first official audience with John Paul’s successor. But the history of such meetings is relatively brief. Until 1960 no Archbishop of Canterbury had visited a Pope for more than 500 years. The previous Primate of All England to call, Thomas Arundel, in 1397, was a fugitive. Such visits may now be an irregular part of an Archbishop’s calendar, but in no sense is Dr Williams’s journey run of the mill. It takes place at a critical time for the Anglican Church, and much depends on the rapport he is able to establish with Pope Benedict.
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