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Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby after a prayer service concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at Rome’s Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on January 25 (CNS/Lola Gomez)

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned Catholic and Anglican bishops “to engage in joint mission and witness” at the Tomb of St Paul. Source: The Tablet.

The commissioning took place on January 25 during a service of ecumenical vespers in Rome at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, the site of the apostle’s burial. This marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the feast of his conversion.

The week is marked annually between January 18-25 in the Northern Hemisphere and between Ascension and Pentecost in the Southern Hemisphere.

Pope Francis referenced Pope Gregory the Great’s commission to St Augustine of Canterbury in 597 in his address to the bishops.

“Today, with gratitude to God for our sharing in the Gospel, we send you forth, beloved co-workers for the kingdom of God, so that wherever you carry out your ministry, you may together bear witness to the hope that does not deceive and the unity for which our Saviour prayed,” he said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called on the bishops to make the ministry of reconciliation their “special care”.

“May your ministry alongside one another as Catholics and Anglicans be for the world a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ for which we pray this day,” he said.

The Pope and the Archbishop shared the sign of peace with each of the bishops during the hymn Ubi caritas, which calls for efforts “to keep our minds free of division” and for “an end to malice, strife and quarrels”.

The assembled bishops were in Rome for the “Growing Together” symposium, an ecumenical summit run by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. Each was paired with a bishop from their country of the other denomination.


Bishops commissioned to ‘joint witness’ at the Tomb of St Paul (By Patrick Hudson, The Tablet)


Pope at Ecumenical Vespers: ‘Christian journey to unity rooted in prayer’ (Vatican News)

Love is the only path to Christian unity, pope says (NCR Online)