Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury celebrate closer ties

Pope Francis and Justin Welby Image copyright EPA
Image caption Pope Francis and the archbishop met in the Apostolic Library

The Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury have met to mark half a century of closer ties between their two Churches.

Pope Francis welcomed the archbishop to the Vatican, after holding a joint service in Rome on Wednesday.

The leader of the Catholic Church called the meeting "a beautiful sign of fraternity".

Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican centre in Rome, said it marked "the writing of a new chapter in the history of the Christian Church."

The BBC's Rome correspondent, James Reynolds, witnessed the meeting in the Apostolic Library and said he saw the two men share a joke, with the Pope "roaring his head back in laughter".

In a joint statement following the Wednesday service, the Pope and archbishop acknowledged differences between the denominations, saying they were "undeterred" from seeking unity over the ordination of women and sexuality.

These differences, they said, should not "ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other's traditions."


Image copyright Reuters

By James Reynolds, BBC Rome correspondent

The journey into the deepest warrens of the Vatican is worth it if only to take a ride in the lift. The Catholic Church has clearly decided that the sight of a modern elevator door would not fit in with the d├ęcor of its palaces, so the entrance is disguised as discreetly as possible. Inside the lift, there are wooden panels and a operator in formal dress.

It contributes to a rather formidable, hushed atmosphere. The Vatican is, famously, the smallest state in the world. It is also, surely, the quietest. In its hallways, few speak above a whisper. No detail is forgotten. I found a light-switch engraved with the coat of arms of the Holy See.

Vatican officials escorted us into the library to catch about 15 seconds of a conversation between the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope roared with laughter at one of Dr Welby's jokes. Before we could work out the exact punchline, we were escorted out again.

The service was held on the 50th anniversary of the historic summit between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michel Ramsey.

Archbishop Welby wore a papal ring presented to his predecessor during the visit in 1966.

The split between the two faiths began during the reign of Henry VIII when the King broke away from Rome.

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