Common Declaration by Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Statement issued as 19 pairs of Anglican, Roman Catholic bishops sent out on mission

Posted Oct 5, 2016
Pope Francis, right, smiles with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of Vespers at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome, Italy, Oct. 5. Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile - RTSQWZU

Pope Francis, right, smiles with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of Vespers at the monastery church of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome, Italy, Oct. 5. Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

[Anglican Communion News Service] Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have said that they are “undeterred” by the “serious obstacles” to full unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

In a Common Declaration, issued in Rome Oct. 5, the two say that the differences “cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ by reason of our common baptism. Nor should they ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions.”

The Common Declaration was made at a service of Vespers in the Church of Saint Gregory on the Caelian Hill in Rome, from where, in 595AD, Pope Gregory sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo-Saxon people. Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury in 597.

During the service, 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops from across the world were commissioned by the pope and the archbishop before being “sent out” in mission together. Among the 19 pairings are Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee John Bauerschmidt and Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore Dennis Madden.

Pope Francis told them: “Fourteen centuries ago Pope Gregory sent the servant of God, Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, and his companions, from this holy place, to preach the joyful message of the Word of God. Today we send you, dear brothers, servants of God, with this same joyful message of his everlasting kingdom.”

And Welby said: “Our Savior commissioned his disciples saying, ‘Peace be with you’. We too, send you out with his peace, a peace only he can give. May his peace bring freedom to those who are captive and oppressed, and may his peace bind into greater unity the people he has chosen as his own.”

Common Declaration

of HIS HOLINESS Pope Francis


Fifty years ago our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey met in this city hallowed by the ministry and blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Subsequently, Pope John Paul II with Archbishop Robert Runcie, and later with Archbishop George Carey, and Pope Benedict XVI with Archbishop Rowan Williams, prayed together here in this Church of Saint Gregory on the Caelian Hill from where Pope Gregory sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo-Saxon people. On pilgrimage to the tombs of these apostles and holy forebears, Catholics and Anglicans recognize that we are heirs of the treasure of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the call to share that treasure with the whole world. We have received the Good News of Jesus Christ through the holy lives of men and women who preached the Gospel in word and deed and we have been commissioned, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be Christ’s witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). We are united in the conviction that “the ends of the earth” today, is not only a geographical term, but a summons to take the saving message of the Gospel particularly to those on the margins and the peripheries of our societies.

In their historic meeting in 1966, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey established the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission to pursue a serious theological dialogue which, “founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed”. Fifty years later we give thanks for the achievements of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which has examined historically divisive doctrines from a fresh perspective of mutual respect and charity. Today we give thanks in particular for the documents of ARCIC II which will be appraised by us, and we await the findings of ARCIC III as it navigates new contexts and new challenges to our unity.

Fifty years ago our predecessors recognized the “serious obstacles” that stood in the way of a restoration of complete faith and sacramental life between us. Nevertheless, they set out undeterred, not knowing what steps could be taken along the way, but in fidelity to the Lord’s prayer that his disciples be one. Much progress has been made concerning many areas that have kept us apart. Yet new circumstances have presented new disagreements among us, particularly regarding the ordination of women and more recent questions regarding human sexuality. Behind these differences lies a perennial question about how authority is exercised in the Christian community. These are today some of the concerns that constitute serious obstacles to our full unity. While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred. In our trust and joy in the Holy Spirit we are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his Church. We trust in God’s grace and providence, knowing that the Holy Spirit will open new doors and lead us into all truth (cf. John 16: 13).

These differences we have named cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ by reason of our common baptism. Nor should they ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions. These differences must not lead to a lessening of our ecumenical endeavours. Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper that all might be one (cf. John 17: 20-23) is as imperative for his disciples today as it was at that moment of his impending passion, death and resurrection, and consequent birth of his Church. Nor should our differences come in the way of our common prayer: not only can we pray together, we must pray together, giving voice to our shared faith and joy in the Gospel of Christ, the ancient Creeds, and the power of God’s love, made present in the Holy Spirit, to overcome all sin and division. And so, with our predecessors, we urge our clergy and faithful not to neglect or undervalue that certain yet imperfect communion that we already share.

Wider and deeper than our differences are the faith that we share and our common joy in the Gospel. Christ prayed that his disciples may all be one, “so that the world might believe” (John 17: 21). The longing for unity that we express in this Common Declaration is closely tied to the desire we share that men and women come to believe that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to save the world from the evil that oppresses and diminishes the entire creation. Jesus gave his life in love, and rising from the dead overcame even death itself. Christians who have come to this faith, have encountered Jesus and the victory of his love in their own lives, and are impelled to share the joy of this Good News with others. Our ability to come together in praise and prayer to God and witness to the world rests on the confidence that we share a common faith and a substantial measure of agreement in faith.

The world must see us witnessing to this common faith in Jesus by acting together. We can, and must, work together to protect and preserve our common home: living, teaching and acting in ways that favour a speedy end to the environmental destruction that offends the Creator and degrades his creatures, and building individual and collective patterns of behaviour that foster a sustainable and integral development for the good of all. We can, and must, be united in a common cause to uphold and defend the dignity of all people. The human person is demeaned by personal and societal sin. In a culture of indifference, walls of estrangement isolate us from others, their struggles and their suffering, which also many of our brothers and sisters in Christ today endure. In a culture of waste, the lives of the most vulnerable in society are often marginalised and discarded. In a culture of hate we see unspeakable acts of violence, often justified by a distorted understanding of religious belief. Our Christian faith leads us to recognise the inestimable worth of every human life, and to honour it in acts of mercy by bringing education, healthcare, food, clean water and shelter and always seeking to resolve conflict and build peace. As disciples of Christ we hold human persons to be sacred, and as apostles of Christ we must be their advocates.

Fifty years ago Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey took as their inspiration the words of the apostle: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 13-14). Today, “those things which are behind” –  the painful centuries of separation –have been partially healed by fifty years of friendship. We give thanks for the fifty years of the Anglican Centre in Rome dedicated to being a place of encounter and friendship. We have become partners and companions on our pilgrim journey, facing the same difficulties, and strengthening each other by learning to value the gifts which God has given to the other, and to receive them as our own in humility and gratitude.

We are impatient for progress that we might be fully united in proclaiming, in word and deed, the saving and healing gospel of Christ to all people. For this reason we take great encouragement from the meeting during these days of so many Catholic and Anglican bishops of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) who, on the basis of all that they have in common, which generations of ARCIC scholars have painstakingly unveiled, are eager to go forward in collaborative mission and witness to the “ends of the earth”. Today we rejoice to commission them and send them forth in pairs as the Lord sent out the seventy-two disciples. Let their ecumenical mission to those on the margins of society be a witness to all of us, and let the message go out from this holy place, as the Good News was sent out so many centuries ago, that Catholics and Anglicans will work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon.

In this Church of Saint Gregory the Great, we earnestly invoke the blessings of the Most Holy Trinity on the continuing work of ARCIC and IARCCUM, and on all those who pray for and contribute to the restoration of unity between us.

Rome, 5 October 2016

HIS GRACE JUSTIN WELBY                                   HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS



Comments (45)

  1. So glad to see Michael Curry there, and the Bishop of Tennessee commissioned as the latest member of this important group!

  2. Jane Bearden says:

    Were any women included in the discussions?

    1. Alessandra Parrini says:

      In which capacity?Mulieris Dignitatem. Jesus did not give His Church authority to ordain them. This is my Body do a theatrical re enactment or transubstantiation? depending not on the faith guts of the partaker but the anointing in Apostolic Succession validity of the celebrant. The Book of Common Worship albeit aimed at bringing earthly peace amidst controversy is a de facto protestant no belief in the Real Presence based take. If there is Apostolic Succession, as I heard claimed on the basis of one document relating to one single Bishop in the times of King Henry VIII who too charge of ordaining, then I suppose a validly ordained minister will channel the Real Presence no matter what the communicant personally believes. No crackers and grapes juice though.

    2. Jennifer Foster says:

      great question!

  3. Alan Marsh says:

    Nothing will happen. Anglicanism is steadily moving away from Rome and will not go back.

    1. Richard McClellan says:

      Anglicanism is dying a slow, poisonous death thanks to bowing at the altar of the spirit of the age.

  4. Fiona O'Brien says:

    Oh, just get on with it! #unification

  5. The Rev. Philip R. Taylor says:

    If we join together in mission to love, forgive, and heal the differences fade away and become as nothing.

    1. Steve Garnele says:

      Wholly agree… Authentic, spiritual ecumenism operates at a deeper level than the debating of doctrines; indeed, the foundations of unity can only be forged sustainably in the crucible of contemplative and compassionate encounter, where Christians of all traditions respect and even celebtate their differences while the Holy Spirit leads us, through our love of one another, to ultimate truth: such truth cannot always be defined in theological discourse because it can only be discerned in while partaking in that perfect mystical union, between the Three, that we encounter in contemplative prayer… Seek the Kingdom of God (within) and His righteousness, and everthing else, including unity, will be given!
      In Christ Jesus.

  6. Dr Richard Palmer says:

    The reality is: in terms of catholicity, Rome does not recognise Anglicanism.

  7. Pamela Webster (The Reverend) says:

    I wish all Episcopalians and Roman Catholics would read this letter/document.

  8. The Rev. Dr. Elaine McCoy says:

    All people of faitb surely must recognize each other as kindred children of their Creator.

  9. Elaine McCoy says:

    All people of faitb surely must recognize each other as kindred children of their Creator.

  10. Alessandra Parrini says:

    A papal oversight? He sent them two by two. Onto the stumbling stone of scandal of shared Apostolic premises for the CofE female ordained.

  11. Carol Ericsson says:

    I pray, an an Anglican, that we will be able to worship with our Roman Brothers and Sisters in Full Communion, soon. Blessed be…

  12. Having spent 18 years as Rector of St. Paul’s within the walls in Rome it gives me great joy to see the continued witness of devout Christians in the eternal city striving towards an ever deepening Christian unity and global identity as the Body of Christ. Roman Catholics and Anglicans throughout the world should be gratefully inspired and hopeful that Christ’s command that we be one in Word and Sacrament moves ever closer to becoming a reality.

  13. Megs Singer says:

    So glad to see these Christian leaders working toward the unity described in John 17. Jesus said that if the world could see all our love for one another, that would help convince them of the truth of Jesus’ words.

  14. Jean Hayes says:

    That is a great joy!

  15. Liz Zivanov says:

    Did they celebrate and share the Eucharist together — the pope and the ABC?

    1. LAUREEN H MOYER says:

      No. Vespers.

  16. James G. Belmont says:

    Among Gods people through the love & loving words of our savior Jesus the Christ I pray the walls come tumbling down. Help us God I pray. A joyous moment.God help us to reconcile our lives with each other. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

  17. Patricia McMahon, osf. says:

    What a blessing.

  18. Peter K. Murphy says:

    Yesterday’s meeting in Rome was truly historic. Let us hope that all Anglicans and Roman Catholics read, and put into practice, the words of the joint declaration signed in the Church of Saint Gregory by of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and His Holiness Pope Francis. Ut unam sint!

  19. Jennifer m. says:

    unity is strength. God Bless us to be a blessing for others

  20. Fr. Gulshan Barkat OMI says:

    It is soul consoling to see one more step towards full communion between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. The road will have obstacles created by Satan but the grace of God will guide us through.

  21. Br. Franklin Kline OPA says:

    Swimming Thames and Tiber to flow into a common Sea! May this conntinu with all Blessing.

  22. Adam D. McCoy, OHC says:

    What a blessing! Thanksgiving to the Camaldolese hermits and monks who faithfully maintain the life of monastic prayer at San Gregorio between the meetings of popes and archbishops. And thanksgiving for having devoted themselves in covenant with the Anglican Order of the Holy Cross as witnesses to the common faith of both ecclesial communities and to the enduring power of Benedictine prayer and life. And thanksgiving for Fr. Robert Hale, OSBCam, whose work helped pioneer Anglican/Roman Catholic ecumenical understanding and who himself joyfully embodies our common commitments in Christ.

  23. Rev. Peggy Blanchard Hunt says:

    I remember learning about ARCIC in seminary almost 30 years ago–it was good news then, and it’s good news now. However, with all due respect to the many (many!) eminent theologians who are working and have worked so diligently and faithfully to enlighten this process, I’d like to make a simple suggestion. Recalling the numerous gospel descriptions of Jesus eating with his disciples by the sea, feeding a crowd on the grass and so on (wonderful picnics!) I suggest that a way to “ease in” toward having Holy Eucharist together would be to start having picnics together, all the way from the top (Pope and ABC) to the bottom (local parishes). I believe that once we commit to living together, we will discover -how- live together. Again, recalling the biblical narratives, first we live our faith, and only then do we theologize on it. Let’s be incarnational, and then reflect theologically…cut to the chase!

    1. Becky Moroz says:

      Amen! Many rifts can be healed and new relationships started through the fellowship that comes from a parish picnic!

  24. Njoroge peter says:

    If this is the will of God,may it continue

  25. Susan Gullickson says:

    Unfortunately, too many differences still exist. Including a priest being an openly gay individual married to a man that left his wife. Catholics believe in the Sacraments, all of them. I am not sure about Episcopalians. Thank you.

Comments are closed.