Pope Francis smiles with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of vespers prayers at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome, on October 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile
ROME (Reuters) The heads of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches said on Wednesday (Oct. 5) they would work together to help the poor and protect the environment despite their unity being blocked by differences over women priests and gay marriage.
Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made the pledge in a joint statement at a vespers, or evening prayer service, in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of theological dialogue between the two Churches in 1966.
“While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred,” the joint statement said, specifically mentioning the ordination of women and “more recent questions regarding human sexuality.”
Last January the Anglican Communion rebuked its liberal U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, for supporting same-sex marriage, a move that averted a formal schism in the world’s third-largest Christian denomination but left deep divisions unresolved.
The vespers were held in the same Rome church from where Pope Gregory I sent St. Augustine to convert the English in 597, nearly 1,000 years before King Henry VIII broke Rome in 1534 to start the Church of England.
After 1534, there had been no meeting between an Archbishop of Canterbury and a pope until 1966 when Michael Ramsey met Pope Paul VI.
In their joint declaration, the pope and Welby said their two Churches could do much together despite “the imperfect union we already share.”
“We can, and must, work together to protect and preserve our common home: living, teaching and acting in ways that favor a speedy end to the environmental destruction that offends the Creator and degrades his creatures,” the joint declaration said.
They vowed to fight “a culture of waste” where the most vulnerable of people in society are marginalized and discarded and to work together to work for peace and bring education, healthcare, food, clean water and shelter to the poor.
The Anglican communion counts some 85 million members and the Roman Catholic Church has about 1.2 billion.