The ARCIC III Commission has its 2015 meeting in Rome and we had the privilege of an audience with Pope Francis on Thursday. As Co-Chair of ARCIC III I was moved to be greeted so warmly by his Holiness, to be able to convey the Archbishop of Canterbury’s greetings, and to be asked by the Pope to pass on his own personal greetings to Archbishop Justin.
In my address to Pope Francis I spoke of how his remarkable ministry had aided the way The Gift of Authority (ARCIC II’s document on Church oversight and government) had been received and understood, since he often speaks of himself as "Bishop of Rome", emphasizing the collegial nature of his authority which he shares with other bishops. I continued:
“The Extraordinary Synod on the Family (2014), which included lay and ecumenical participation, demonstrated your commitment to synodality within the Church. The emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel in your Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (2013), the simplicity of your personal lifestyle, your stress in ministry to the poor and marginalized, and the positive role you have played in international reconciliation have all played their part in commending the ministry of the Bishop of Rome to Christians throughout the world . This affirmation comes with our highest respect and deepest affection.”
Pope Francis reminded us that ecumenical relations and dialogue are not secondary elements of the life of the Churches: “The cause of unity is not an optional undertaking and the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable. Some wish that, after fifty years, greater progress towards unity would have been achieved. Despite difficulties, we must not lose heart, but we must trust even more in the power of the Holy Spirit, who can heal and reconcile us, and accomplish what humanly does not seem possible.”
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