By Philippa Hitchen
One year ago, Pope Francis made history by becoming the first Roman pontiff to visit the Anglican church of All Saints, located in the heart of Rome close to the Spanish Steps. He presided at an Evensong service, alongside Bishop Robert Innes, of the Anglican Diocese in Europe and blessed a specially commissioned icon of Christ the Saviour.
The papal visit marked the 200th anniversary of the foundation of All Saints community in Rome. The ecumenical celebration included an official twinning of the parish with Rome’s Catholic church of Ogni Santi on the Via Appia..
In his words to the congregation Pope Francis said that Catholics and Anglican together are grateful that, after centuries of mutual distrust, “we are now able to recognize that the fruitful grace of Christ is also at work in other Christians”.
Strengthen ecumenical relations
He said this recognition brings with it a responsibility to further strengthen the relationship and to better serve the Gospel in this city of Rome.
The celebration concluded with a question and answer session, as Pope Francis responded to questions from members of the congregation. They included details of a planned visit to South Sudan together with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Joint visit to South Sudan
The Pope said that “Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic” bishops of South Sudan had visited the Vatican to ask him: “Please, come to South Sudan, even for a day, but don’t come alone, come with Justin Welby”..
He added that at present “the situation down there is too dangerous. But he stressed the desire to visit the country remains because the three Christian communities there “are working together for peace.”