Friday, January 8, 2016

Pope St. Gregory Leading the Angels Again

As the 37 primates of the Anglican Communion gather in Canterbury, a very symbolic emblem of papal authority will be on display at the Cathedral, per this Anglican Communion News Service story:

The crozier of the sixth century Pope who sent Augustine to England to begin the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons will be in Canterbury as the Primates of the Anglican Communion gather for their meeting in the city next week.

The ancient carved ivory headed crozier will be on public display at Canterbury Cathedral during the weekends before and after the Primates Meeting after being loaned to the Cathedral by the Roman Catholic monks of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome. Saint Augustine had been prior of the monastery, which had been built by Pope Gregory I before his elevation to the Papacy. Augustine lead a seven-year mission to England and is recognised as the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

“We are very pleased to receive the crozier as a symbol of ecumenical encouragement at this time of the meeting of Anglican Primates and as a link with St Gregory whose vision of the conversion of England caused Augustine to found the community at Canterbury,” the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, said.

Commenting on the loan, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said: “Allow me at this point to congratulate you on the highly symbolic value of the loan of this relic, dear to the Church of England, which venerates Pope St Gregory the Great, the promoter of the evangelising mission to the Anglo-Saxon people and is therefore a mark of the bond that spiritually unites the Catholic and Anglican Churches.”

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, commented on the importance of Pope St. Gregory the Great to Christianity in England when Pope Benedict XVI and he prayed Evening Prayer together in Westminster Abbey (September 17, 2010):

Christians in Britain, especially in England, look back with the most fervent gratitude to the events of 597, when Augustine landed on these shores to preach the gospel to the Anglo-Saxons at the behest of Pope St Gregory the Great. For Christians of all traditions and confessions, St Gregory is a figure of compelling attractiveness and spiritual authority – pastor and leader, scholar and exegete and spiritual guide. The fact that the first preaching of the Gospel to the English peoples in the sixth and seventh centuries has its origins in his vision creates a special connection for us with the See of the Apostles Peter and Paul; and Gregory’s witness and legacy remain an immensely fruitful source of inspiration for our own mission in these dramatically different times. Two dimensions of that vision may be of special importance as we reflect today on the significance of Your Holiness’s visit to us.

St Gregory was the first to spell out for the faithful something of the magnitude of the gift given to Christ’s Church through the life of St Benedict – to whom you, Your Holiness, have signalled your devotion in the choice of your name as Pope. In St Gregory’s
Dialogues, we can trace the impact of St Benedict – an extraordinary man who, through a relatively brief Rule of life, opened up for the whole civilisation of Europe since the sixth century the possibility of living in joy and mutual service, in simplicity and self-denial, in a balanced pattern of labour and prayer in which every moment spoke of human dignity fully realised in surrender to a loving God. The Benedictine life proved a sure foundation not only for generations of monks and nuns, but for an entire culture in which productive work and contemplative silence and receptivity—human dignity and human freedom—were both honoured.

So yesterday I posted the story about Vespers according to the Catholic Liturgy of Hours being celebrated in the Hampton Court Palace Chapel, today about the papal crozier being sent from Rome to Canterbury during the crucial meeting of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Welby is hoping to avoid further division in the Anglican Communion over the issues of so-called "gay" marriage and women priests and bishops. In his message to the primates, Welby noted:

“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted. In that light I long for us to meet together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to seek to find a way of enabling ourselves to set a course which permits us to focus on serving and loving each other, and above all on the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ."
"We have no Anglican Pope": perhaps that's the problem!

And this Religious News Service story mentions an even more important relic coming to England while the primates meet, which should remind them again of Catholic unity:

In December, a much more eye-catching “holy” (sic) relic will be flown in from Rome – the bloodied vestment worn by St. Thomas Becket when he was beheaded at the high altar of Canterbury Cathedral by four armed knights loyal to King Henry II, after a quarrel between the king and his archbishop.

(Why would a media organization with the title Religious News Service put scare quotes around the word holy?)

Pope St. Gregory the Great; St. Augustine of Canterbury; St. Thomas a Becket: the way to unity is certainly symbolized through the relics on display at Canterbury! May the unity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church with the Vicar of Christ lead the Church of England home to Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate! Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

1 comment:

  1. On the other hand:

    I was over there last summer & the only religion I saw in practice was Islam.