Pope Benedict XVI and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams arrive for vespers in Rome. CNS photo

ROME – Remembering the common roots of the Christianity they share, Roman Catholics and Anglicans should renew their commitments to praying and working for Christian unity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, held an evening prayer service on March 10 at Rome’s Church of St Gregory on the Caelian Hill. This was the church from which Pope Gregory the Great sent St Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow monks to evangelise England in 597.

“We hope that the sign of our presence here together in front of the holy altar, where Gregory himself celebrated the eucharistic sacrifice, will remain not only as a reminder of our fraternal encounter, but also as a stimulus for all the faithful – both Catholic and Anglican – encouraging them ... to renew their commitment to pray constantly and to work for unity,” Pope Benedict said during the evening prayer service.

Camaldoli monks and nuns were joined by cardinals, Anglican and Catholic faithful and representatives of other Christian communities in Rome for the prayer service.

Archbishop Williams told Vatican Radio that he and the pope spoke about the situation of Christians in the Middle East “and about our shared sense of deep anxiety and frustration and uncertainty about what the future holds there”.

He said they also spoke about Pope Benedict’s invitation to Archbishop Williams to address October’s world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation.

Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, he said, both are committed to “a vision of the restoration of full sacramental communion, of a eucharistic life that is fully visible, and thus a witness that is fully credible, so that a confused and tormented world may enter into the welcome and transforming light of Christ”.

But Catholic-Anglican unity is imperfect, at least in part because Catholics and Anglicans have an “unstable and incomplete” recognition of one another as the body of Christ, Archbishop Williams said. “Without such ultimate recognition we are not yet fully free to share the transforming power of the Gospel within the Christian community” and in the world.

He told Vatican Radio that Anglicans and Roman Catholics “can become so fixated” on issues of authority and Church structure “that we can forget the gift of baptism and the gift of one another in baptism”, which are the true basis of unity.

“One of the hardest, yet most important, lessons the different Christian communities today have to learn is that they cannot live without each other and that no single one of them in isolation possesses the entirety of the Gospel,” he said. n CNS

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