Pope Francis meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Rome

 

Pope Francis has welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby in Rome, the first time the two church leaders have met.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church said the two men shared a common desire for social justice, peace and the promotion of Christian values in areas such as marriage.

He added that he was grateful for the "sincere efforts" of the Church of England to understand why his predecessor Benedict XVI set up the ordinariate for disaffected Anglicans who wish to be received into the Catholic Church.

Speaking about their shared hopes for social justice, Pope Francis said: "Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers."

Mr Welby, who has spoken of the inspiration he draws from Catholic social teaching, followed the custom of archbishops of Canterbury visiting the Vatican, by wearing an episcopal ring given to Archbishop Michael Ramsey by Pope Paul VI in 1966.

The Archbishop said in an address after their meeting: "We must love those who seek to oppose us, and love above all those tossed aside - even whole nations - by the present crises around the world."

Mr Welby was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, in March, days after the inauguration of Pope Francis.

The Pope said the closeness of their inaugurations meant that they always had a "particular reason to support one another in prayer".

Mr Welby was accompanied on his visit to the Vatican by the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales.

Earlier, Mr Welby, who was visiting Rome with his wife Caroline, visited the excavations beneath St Peter's Basilica to pray at the tomb of St Peter, as his predecessor Dr Rowan Williams did on his first visit to Rome.

He also prayed before the tomb of the late Pope, Blessed John Paul II, who died in 2005.

Mr Welby met Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, before meeting Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace.

The visit came after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, a leading Roman Catholic cardinal, last month described Mr Welby's appointment - and that of Pope Francis - as a "great sign" from the Lord.

PA

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