This is my Thought for the Day broadcast on Radio Kent this morning:
In March 1966 the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, met Pope Paul VI in the Vatican. At the time this was a momentous historic occasion: the first time an Archbishop of Canterbury had met a Pope since the Church of England broke from Rome, and actually the first time at all since 1397. The meeting helped to dispel centuries of suspicion and animosity between Catholics and Anglicans in this country and around the world. In a moving gesture of brotherhood, Pope Paul gave Archbishop Ramsey the bishop’s ring he had worn when he was previously Archbishop of Milan.
Since those heady days, it has become normal for Archbishops of Canterbury to travel to Rome to meet the pope, and last Friday the newly appointed Archbishop Justin Welby made that journey to meet the newly elected Pope Francis. At the meeting he wore, as his predecessors have done since 1966, the same ring given to Michael Ramsey by Pope Paul.
Back in 1966, the talk between the churchmen was centred around delicate relationships between Catholics and Anglicans and how to manage the differences between them. Times, and society, have changed a lot since then, and the most recent meeting centred much more on areas on which Rome and Canterbury agree, which is a lot, and how they can effectively work together to promote and defend Christianity in Britain and around the world. Issues like social justice and the application of ethical principles in banking were high on the agenda and say something about the times in which we live.
Today, Catholics and Anglicans hear the same Bible readings in Church on Sundays most weeks. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke tells of the disapproval of some of Jesus’ followers when he allows a local woman of ill-repute to bathe and anoint his feet with oil. But Jesus accepts the gesture of love and respect and as the woman leaves tells he: “Your faith has saved you”.
As we give thanks for the good relationships and trust between Christians in our own communities today, let us pray that we can all overcome our own prejudices and barriers, and both give and receive generous gestures to and from each other in the same good faith. Only in this way can we together bring God into today’s world which is so in need of his healing presence.