PREAMBLE: During the whole time we were in Rome at the Anglican Centre and Representing His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, my wife, Ann, and I met TOTAL COURTESY AND POLITENESS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE VATICAN AND IN ITS EXTENSIVE ANCILLARY ORGANISATIONS. I would divide the reception we received into a number of categories, which underlie our whole time in The Holy See (the Vatican, population approximately 700, and fiercely aware of its status as a sovereign state.)
THE FIRST CATEGORY can be described as friendly but defensive concerning the perceived unique status of the successors of Peter, regarded as the Rock upon which the true unity of Christendom is built. Peter was the first Pope directly commissioned by Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels. The assumption is that the status of Peter is repeated in the person of every Bishop of Rome since Peter’s time. Frankly, whilst this still continues to mean toleration and civilised conversation, nothing can remove the blockage formed by not acknowledging the Pope, and the various accretions that have been added to his status, notably the notion of Infallibility in matters of Doctrine and Morals. Ecumenism will be faced with this situation for the foreseeable future. Since the 2nd Vatican Council, the practice of “re-baptising” Anglican converts to Rome has mostly died out. However, I cannot say what other christian communions and traditions find in this matter. This first category of persons were not all pleased about this loosening.
THE SECOND CATEGORY was a “pushing of the corners of the envelope”, by which I mean the current situation imposed by the disunity of the Church. Pushing to extend, but never breaking present constraints in any significant way. By this I mean, keenness to see progress towards the unity of all christian people, but within the present boundaries; no disobedience! Here there is generally a recognition of the value of the original European Reformation movements for both ‘sides’. On a wider front, the Roman Catholic Church has a very proper longing to see further progress in relations with the Orthodox Churches and other traditions and churches. I found out a great deal about these churches during my time in Rome and see them as examples which may aid the worldwide search for unity. The Anglican Communion had its birth in the 16th century as an independent-minded development of the movement which Martin Luther did so much to ignite.
THE THIRD CATEGORY which we discerned is smaller and it is made up of people who are prepared to develop links that include mutual recognition of ministries and intercommunion in the sacraments. Here the enveloping limits of disunity are (usually and discretely) ignored in any number of ways, according to the people involved. During my time in Rome, I was offered the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist and share in Holy Communion with groups keen on this approach to unity. It is an approach congenial to many Anglicans, but I felt I had always to decline regretfully as the clandestinity of the practice did not fit in with the role of commissioned Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and, therefore, of the Anglican Communion worldwide.
These ‘radical mavericks’ (to quote a rather severe traditionalist) tend unsurprisingly to be Roman Catholics outside the Vatican bureaucracy/hierarchy and often from younger age-groups, although by no means exclusively so.
SEXUAL CONDUCT AND CURRENT CONTROVERSIES ABOUT IT. All we can say on this very difficult topic is that misconduct and its practices was not a feature of our time in Rome. However, in view of our role in 2001-2003, that is no surprise.
SOME ASPECTS OF OUR LIFE AND WORK WHEN LIVING IN ROME. Ann and I moved to Rome in the late summer of 2001, when I took up the twin posts of Director of the Anglican Centre and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See. The existence of the appointments stems from the reign of Pope John XXXIII and was followed up during the reign of Pope Paul VI.
The Centre itself owes its physical existence and continuation in the historic Palazzo Doria to the courage and generosity of Don Frank and Donna Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj and of their children, Don Jonathan and Donna Gesina. The whole family has a notable tradition in ecumenism, and a strong record of opposition to intolerance of every kind.
These were years of great ecumenical activity and hope, not just for Angiicans like me, but across many of the traditions of Christianity. Wisely these contacts were described as Conversations. This is significant, it indicated the end of a “counter-reformation” mentality in which the various traditions saw themselves as the “true church” and sought to get conversions from one another. It is happy to note that these Conversations have continued to develop over the decades since the 2nd Vatican Council coined the phrase “separated brethren” for a variety of epithets ranging from ‘damned heretics’ to ‘other religions,” This mutual trading of harsh words, was too often the result of a history of national nd local civil ‘ethnic’ rivalries, tinged by inherited memories of strife and violence. Sadly, some of these continue to this day and slow down potential progress at international levels.
Ann and I inherited all this background as we went to the Anglican Centre, where we were to live, the latest beneficiaries of the ecumenical generosity of the Doria Pamphilj family, who still lease the Angican Centre; a library-cum-appartment-cum hospitality centre in the beautiful and historic Palazzo Doria in centre of Rome. Although I was appointed to the combined post of Director and Representative, it was equally a posting for Ann as we welcomed and gave hospitality to a very large number of people, from a seemingly endless variety of backgrounds. We were backed up by an administrator, a librarian and a cleaner: all capable, helpful people.
(Amusingly, I was often complimented on my lectures and addresses in Italian, which were very frequently based on a translation by our librarian of a document by me in English. I always owned up to the truth!) Our first welcome came from ‘Brit community’. This introduced us to people and to prosecco: both these had a significant part to play in our time in Rome. There are two Anglican churches in Rome, one of English and one of American foundation. We were warmly welcomed to both.
The Anglican Centre in Rome has a large library which I found to be rather dated and it was rarely consulted by Roman Catholic and members of other traditions. Piqued by this, I asked an Anglican student who was doing a placement at the Venerable English College to see what information about the Anglican tradition was to be had in the national colleges that are dotted about Rome and serve the Roman Catholic churches as centres of education for the students who are sent there as a place of advanced training for selected seminarians from all over the world. His report was brief and very clear. Any useful written or other ‘media’ information about the Anglican tradition was available in these national colleges and libraries, and accessible to anyone who asked. This shone a light on the truth that ecumenical relations throughout the world – and, indeed, inter-faith relations can only be built upon trust that is founded on friendship and understanding among Christian people. Documents are good, but only men and women in fellowship in Christ will be led to the deepest level of communion in Christ. I do not in any way deprecate the Conversations between appointed representatives of the various traditions but these can only ever be part of the necessary processes of recognition and the mutual forgivingness that is inevitably part of reconciliation work.
The Anglican Centre offers courses on various topics and these attract people from all over the world who wish to learn about Rome and christian Rome in particular. I was very ably assisted in this work by Canon Jonathan Boardman of All Saints’ Rome and Mrs Geraldine Tomlin the Centre’s Administrator. Their knowledge of Rome was a great help in the guiding, boarding and entertaining of all our many visitors. I regard friendship developing into mutual trust as a basic, sacred and irreplaceable truth in the healing of a divided christendom. It was amply reinforced by our experience in Rome, where ministry by a Bishop and his wife, whose son is an Anglican priest and the son’s wife is also an ordained Anglican priest. This was a continuing source of surprise and interest, making as much impact as did the theological and ecclesiological debate. It opened up new vistas of understanding for a large number of people. Going out and meeting, welcoming and hospitality were staple parts of our work and we did this together, as well as individually. Prosaically but very problematically, the floor of the Centre was in a dangerous state and in need of a huge amount of restoration work. We were found temporary accommodation in another Doria building – a longdisused private seminary, part of which now houses the Ecumenical library and meeting centre of the American based Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. Even this ‘accident’ was a huge ‘plus’ for our work. The Friars are an American community which converted to Roman Catholicism from Episcopalianism in 1913. The Friars were immensely welcoming, supportive and hospitable friends throughout our time in Rome. This and many other friendships were a huge sustaining strength to us and the basis for our work, because we were there to promote understanding, friendship and collaboration within existing ecumenical frameworks.
One of our first invitations to a significant event came from the Venerable English College, the institution which, in earlier and much less tolerant times, had sent priests covertly into Britain to minister to remaining Roman Catholic communities and to draw in new converts. The work was very dangerous and many of these priests met cruel deaths at the hands of my own fellow countrymen, who saw these men as an adjunct to hostile nations who would gladly have invaded Britain and enforced conformity with Rome. Politics and faith have never and, I believe, will never have a stress-free relationship. This is a situation which spreads throughout christendom into and across non-christian religions as well. So… Ann and I went to “the Venerabile” with a mixture of fascination and trepidation. We were placed in seats of honour which happen to be close to the relics of the English Martyrs – often blood soaked handkerchiefs, obtained by dipping them in the blood of the martyrs whose bodies were being carted away to an ignominious interment. But the welcome could not have been more cordial and the Rector made a point of saying that the ability to make this visit in our own day and age was a symbol of how mistrust and hatred was turning to fellowship and collaboration. I agreed and was able to reply that the Holy Spirit is ever at work among us. I could extend this list: the Irish College, North American College, Swedish College, and many others drew us into friendship, as did the non-Roman Catholic traditions which are much in evidence of Rome. I found myself drawn into the planning and carrying out of the annual Prayer for Unity Week, where I was delighted to meet many representatives of the Orthodox Traditions. They were not my primary task as The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, but the open friendship offered was a large-hearted encouragement and a help in later contacts that I have had with Orthodox churches from literally every part of the world. The emphasis on building friendship in the Name of Christ cannot be over stressed. There are many Roman Catholic Universities in Rome of which the principal ones are The Gregorian and The University of St. Thomas Aquinas (known as The Angelicum.) These were more difficult and complex to get to know, but those whom I did visit were always welcoming and full of good information and discussion.
Another most important element in our time in Rome was relations with religious communities, a category so wide that it defies full description here. Vatican Radio and the Focolare Movement made early contact, as did the Society of Jesus, the Atonement Friars, the Benedictine monastery-cumuniversity of Sant’ Anselmo, the Sisters of the Order of Saint Brigitte of Sweden, the Marists from New Zealand, the Franciscan Friars Minor. Even Opus Dei and Comunione e Liberazione, very different from Anglicanism in approach, were ready to meet, discuss and to pray together with us. This list could flow on and includes Reformed Churches. Language barriers could intrude, but never wipe out the fellowship that we discovered in Our Lord.
The Community of Sant’ Egidio became a major inspiration for us, including in their orbit representatives from all christian traditions and people who were committed to no particular tradition at all. Their combination of devotion and practical ministry was very impressive indeed. Strikingly, in a conference room in Sant’ Egidio’s headquarters is a modest plaque reminding everyone that the peace treaty that ended the Mozambique civil war was signed in that very room, and was the outcome of years of peace-making diplomacy by members of the Community.
I used to take visitors to Sant’ Egidio daily evening prayers, always very well attended, and then take them on to dine in “Gli Amici”, a restaurant run by mentally disabled people, with help and management from community members. The community is active across the whole range of the Gospel of Our Lord in worship, word and action. Links with the Vatican apparatus were slow to build up, but I made a point of inviting myself at least to visit each of the Pontifical Dicasteries and Pontifical Councils. The Dicasteries have the power of direction and include Doctrine of the Faith, the appointing of Bishops, Education for Priestly training, the Rota (on Marriage issues), Social Communications, and others. Councils, on the other hand, offer ideas, information, advice and encouragement on many topics including Christian unity and conversations between churches, on inter-faith dialogue, lay training, culture, and a host of other topics, including Justice and Peace, and Immigrants and Itinerants.
All these are called Pontifical because they report directly to HH The Pope, generally called “ Holy Father.” Each of these organisations has a very senior cleric – usually a Cardinal – as President in charge, with an episcopal secretary and staff. Naturally, my own main contacts were with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, led in my time in Rome by H. E. Cardinal Walter Kasper, a notable scholar and a thoroughly friendly, welcoming and congenial man with a staff equally helpful and welcoming. The Council oversees the bilateral conversations, including the Anglican Roman Catholic International Conversations on unity, and similar dialogues -some of very long standing – continue between Orthodox traditions, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Reformed Churches, and the list continues!My wife’s and my time in Rome was very busy and very rewarding in many ways.
Here I have only been able to tell just a little of the story and, since our time, much has been happening, not least two very different Popes who followed HH Pope John-Paul II, who was on the papal Throne throughout our time at the Angican Centre. The conversations, social contacts and the joint projects in social work, justice and peace are excellent, but I still have to remain patiently impatient and prayerful to see much more solid progress, to see steps, leading to the day when the prayer OMNES SUMUM SINT, will need to be prayed no more.
+Richard Garrard. May 2020