Archbishop of Canterbury encouraged by visit with Pope John Paul II

June 26, 2002

Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey made his sixth and final trip to the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II and said that he felt 'great hope for the continuing journey in ecumenism to which we are both so committed.'

In his formal greeting on June 21, Carey said that he was grateful for the opportunity to meet with the pope 'before I lay down my office' this fall. 'During the last 11 years I have been aware of the growing closeness, mutual affection and respect between our churches and this has found expression in a number of deep friendships,' Carey said.

Carey told the pope, 'Your great courage, wisdom and holiness of life have touched and inspired Christians throughout the world.… Your invitation to church leaders and theologians to engage with you in a patient and fraternal dialogue about the Petrine ministry has made it possible for us to reflect on ways in which a Primacy of love and service could be a gift to share. While we are not yet in the full communion to which the Lord calls us, I rejoice in our shared baptismal faith and the growth in fellowship between our two churches.'

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission produced a 48-page document, 'The Gift of Authority,' discussing how authority is exercised in the church and by whom, and asking both churches to examine their structures. It also opened for discussion the role of the papacy as 'a gift to be received by all churches' and challenged the churches to 'think in new ways about the manner in which authority is to be ordered to the reconciliation of all things in Christ,' according to Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, co-chair of the commission.

Carey reported to the pope that he had met with church leaders in England, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, and signed a covenant that committed them 'to work towards the visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ in the one faith, expressed in common discipleship, worship, witness and service.' Carey said that he was also encouraged by the continuing work of the joint commission and 'the degree of fundamental agreement between our churches on so many aspects of our faith that the commission has identified and articulated.'

Carey gave the pope a study of the life and work of St. Anselm, 36th archbishop of Canterbury, saying that 'as monk, abbot and archbishop, statesman, theologian and philosopher he made a profound and enduring contribution to the life of the church.'

Telling the Anglican story

The visit coincided with a major exhibit on Anglicanism in the Vatican museums and the Sistine Hall, built in the same century as the break between Rome and the church in England. 'I could not see this happening 20 years ago,' Carey said in a press interview after viewing the exhibition which he views as 'a visible sign of the Vatican's hospitality.'

The exhibition was organized by the British ambassador to the Vatican and the dean and chapter of the Diocese of Norwich. 'This illustrates the tradition we share and some of the historical events which have colored our past relationships,' Carey said to the pope. He also cited the creation of the Anglican Center in Rome, following the 'historic visit of my predecessor Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966.'

'This is not just another collection of art grouped around a theme,' said Cardinal Edmund Szoka, governor of Vatican City. 'It is something much more important than that because it tells a story about an important part of our Western Christian tradition. This is the first time that the Vatican mounted an exhibition about another Christian church which is not formally in union with the church of Rome.'

The exhibition coincides with the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of Anglicanism.