In the splendor of the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome, the Very Rev. David Richardson, former dean of Melbourne, Australia was installed and blessed as the new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome (ACR) on May 7, 2008. He also will serve as the Archbishop of Canterbury's personal representative to the Holy See (The Vatican and the Pope). The use of this church, where the sacred remains of St. Catherine of Siena rest, is the titular church of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Westminster, and was offered to the Anglicans for this special service.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, participated in the liturgy and gave a warm welcome to the new director. He was accompanied by the Rev. Canon Monsignor Donald Bolen. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams delivered the homily and the lesson was read by Fung Yi Wong, a member of the ACR board representing the Anglican Consultative Council, the Communion's main legislative body.
Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe was present. The American Friends of the ACR were well represented by Southern Ohio Bishop Tom Breidenthal and his wife, Margaret; the Very Rev. John P. Downey, dean of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie, Pennsylvania, and his wife, Sharon, who is the organist and choir director at the cathedral; John Ousley and Naomi Hirabayashi from Church of the Incarnation in New York City; the Rev. Bill Franklin, who had served as the interim director of the ACR; Keith Pecklers, Mary Reath, Walter Lippincott, and Jane Shapiro, all from New Jersey.
Reath said that Richardson will bring new creativity and excitement to ACR, which she described as "a study center and point of hospitality in Rome, where the Book of Common Prayer is used every day, where Roman Catholics come to exchange ideas and use the library, and where clergy and laity, of all stripes, from around the entire Anglican Communion, come together to study and try to picture a future unity in diversity."
In his homily, Williams told the 300-strong congregation, that the work of the Church must be accomplished with "a deep awareness of the spirit and the cross, not just warm feelings" as well as warning about what some see as "fearful exclusion." In his words to Richardson, Williams said that one must show "Christ-like love at work at the disposal of each other, trying to discover how God's gifts can be put into the service of others." The archbishop encouraged the new director to "interpret and share what you learn here to the wider Anglican Communion."
In his charge to Richardson, Williams said: "To serve the cause of Christian unity is to serve the mission and ministry of the whole Church. It is a privilege and a joy, and in our unhappy divisions it is an urgent responsibility."
Leading the installation was the Rt. Rev. Stephen Platten, bishop of Wakefield and chairman of ACR's board of governors.
Platten spoke of the "notable predecessors" at the ACR and the "task of bringing the living traditions and witness of Anglicans to the service of all Churches, especially here in the see city of the Bishop of Rome."
Three women priests joined the procession at the installation service: the Rev. Sara MacVane, administrator of the ACR; the Rev. Susan Skillen, who ministers in Orvieto and is from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts; and the Rev. Joanna Udal, assistant to the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
Also present at the service were representatives from the St. Egidio Community and the Focolare Movement. A reception was held in the main gallery of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a major art gallery where the physical ACR is located thanks to the generous cooperation of family.
The choir and servers came from the two Anglican congregations, All Saints Church and St. Paul's Within the Walls. Both congregations have high profiles in the wider Rome community, especially in the areas of mission to immigrants and support of young musicians and artists.
Williams and Kasper shared in giving the final blessing at the service. The new director and his wife, Margaret, have already begun to receive pilgrims, students and guests.
"We in the Episcopal Church congratulate David Richardson on this new appointment and encourage our clergy and laity to take advantage of this important ecumenical resource, the Anglican Centre in Rome," said Bishop Christopher Epting, ecumenical and interfaith officer for the Episcopal Church.
Earlier in the week, Williams had a meeting with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The Building Bridges initiative held its meeting the same week and Williams met with Cardinal Dias, who is attending the Lambeth Conference as a keynote speaker, and other officials of the Roman Catholic Church.