Today my parish church, All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome, had the pleasure to welcome Pope Francis himself. Needless to say it was a remarkable occasion, the first of its kind, before today Popes had only visited Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The rather long service of Evensong began with the dedication of our new icon of Saint Saviour by artist Ian Knowles from the Bethlehem Icon School in Israel. Then we proceeded to renew our baptismal vows and subsequently the altar party (led by me) reached the sanctuary while His Holiness slowly sprinkled our worshippers with holy water under the thundering notes of Stanford's setting of Psalm 150 to Anglican Chant. The Pope then preached about charity and mercy, reminding us of our brotherly relationship and the path of faith that we keep following together. Sharing prayer with the Holy Father, believe me, is a humbling experience. Then it was the time of the peace, which we all gladly shared with His Holiness, from the highest ranking members of the Church of England, to the sick, elderly and young of our church community, sharing the peace with Pope Francis really didn't require any additional words, the physical contact was enough to give us a sense of peace and hope. As customary it was then the time for questions, two answers from the Pope got stuck in my head: that we have to understand that when our Churches split times and circumstances were different, but we still share a love for Jesus Christ and his saints and much of our traditional way of practicing Christianity is unchanged, he then moved to an especially moving answer, he explained how we can look to the new churches of the global south, how we can worship together where canon law or theology can't get, as in the case of a diocese in his familiar Argentina where local Anglicans and Catholics worship at the same churches and services depending on the availability of the clergy. On this occasion our church was also twinned with its namesake Roman Catholic partner, with whom we recently started a new service for helping the homeless and the hungry of this large city. Gifts were then exchanged as we sang the beautiful strains of the hymn "For all the saints". Today was an especially touching and humbling experience, we will surely treasure it in our hearts for the years to come. This is truly God's own handiwork. That they may all be one.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Monday, February 20, 2017
Following 50 years of ecumenical partnership between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, culminating in last October's events in Rome, the next few weeks will once again mark historical occasions that will tighten the bonds between the two greatest Christian bodies of the West.
All Saints' Church Rome.
On Sunday 26th of February Pope Francis will visit the Anglican Church of All Saints' in Rome in Via del Babuino, not only this would be the first visit of its kind, but it will also be the first time a Pope will ever join an Anglican church community in prayer, before Popes had only visited Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, a cathedral and a royal peculiar, never a church! The service will be a modified version of Vespers during which His Holiness will preach, bless a special icon commissioned for the service and even get to meet members of the congregation, which we are sure it will be the part he will enjoy most! All Saints' will also be officially twinned with All Saints' Catholic Church, Ognissanti, with whom we have recently started a project for feeding the homeless together each Friday.
The icon of Our Saviour that will be blessed by Pope Francis.
This visit signs the unique bonds of friendship that in the past years have characterised the relationship between us, where there is no communion, our bonds of love in Jesus Christ will do the job for now. Make sure to view the service in streaming on All Saints' website.
Bishop Lane and Bishop North.
On March 7th, Bishop Libby Lane, the first female Bishop of the Church of England, and Bishop Philip North, who stands with the Forward in Faith movement and against the ordination of women, and who operate in the same diocese, will both give a lecture at the Anglican Centre about how to work together, how to overcome difficulties and find one common goal under Jesus Christ. The fact that this will be held in Rome is of great importance and I invite all my Roman Catholics friends to come and be inspired by this important testimony.
St. Peter's Basilica.
Another important occasion will occur on March 13th, when Choral Evensong, the fascinating service of sung Evening Prayer deriving from Benedictine Vespers and famous for its solemn liturgy and glorious music, will be held in the Basilica of Saint Peter, yes you have heard it right. St. Peter's Basilica. The service will be led by Archbishop David Moxon, the director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See. The service will be sung by one of England's leading choirs, that of Merton College Oxford one of the oldest in Britain. It can't be stressed enough how important this great act of hospitality is. I sure will be there to attend this unique event and enjoy the best church music under the best church art!
What a list you would think! That is not it, if I would ask, what's that city closest to Rome, famous for its world renowned art, what would you say? Yes, it's Florence. We all love Fiorenza and we all know its famous Cathedral, home to works to some of the greatest artists: Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Castagno, Luca della Robbia, Giorgio Vasari, under Brunelleschi's dome and the shadow of Giotto's campanile... right I am done, forgive my art historian streak. Florence is also home to one of Italy's most vibrant Church of England chaplaincies, St. Mark's, a growing community of Anglicans with great ecumenical bonds. The church also boast an incredibly fine choir that due to the friendship between the church and the cathedral will perform in the latter. That's right, on March 12th Choral Evensong will be held for the first time in one of the world's most famous and beautiful cathedrals and by all means I will be there! English church music, the greatest form of art Anglicanism has, will be performed in this house of visual arts in which much Italian Renaissance polyphony resounded in ages past. When that music was composed and when that art was produced we would have probably burnt each other. How far have we come!
St. Mark's Church Florence.
The next few days and weeks will be of great historical importance and it is incredible to see how far we have come, it will be a great occasion for each and every single one of us to be part of the great work of love that is the body of Jesus Christ and which we are trying to bring together, at least in friendship because... that they may all be one.