The Anglican Centre in Rome: promoting Christian unity in a divided world

The Anglican Centre in Rome is a permanent Anglican Communion presence in ‘the Eternal City’ and its Director, currently Canon David Richardson, is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See


‘The Council is drawing to its end; but the work of Christian Unity is but beginning.’ So spoke Bishop John Moorman as the Second Vatican Council was concluding in December, 1965. ‘We outside the communion of the Roman Church have for long been occupied in prayer, in dialogue and in effort for the union ofourrespective Churches.Now, with the entry of the Roman Catholic Church into this field, we realise that the Ecumenical Movement has taken on a new dimension. At last we can say that the whole Christian world is engaged in the search for that unity for which Our Blessed Lord prayed.’


Moorman, Bishop of Ripon, was responding on behalf of all the ecumenical observers at the Council to a speech by Pope Paul VI in which the Pope addressed them as ‘Dear Observers, or rather let us call you by the name which has sprung to life again during these four years of the Ecumenical Council: Brothers and Friends in Christ’.

In 1966, a mere three months after the conclusion of the Council, a visionary generation opened a centre in Rome that would begin the task of building friendships, trust and mutual knowledge between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. They called it the Anglican Centre in Rome and today, almost fifty years later, it stands as they intended, as a centre of hospitality, education and worship, for committed ecumenists and pilgrim travellers.

The Centre today

Occupying an apartment in a palace in the historic heart of Rome, the Centre houses a library – some 14,000 volumes – of Anglican theology, the core of it given by Bishop Moorman whose vision of the Centre as a place where Roman Catholics might learn about Anglicanism was realized from the outset. At the dedication of the Centre in March 1966, Archbishop Michael Ramsey said: ‘The Anglican student is often a debtor to writers within the Roman Catholic Church. This Centre is an attempt to repay that debt by making available the resources of Anglican learning to any who will come to enjoy them.’ The library is home also to the documents of the theological–ecumenical dialogue, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), now in its third phase.

Worship is at the heart of the Centre’s life. In addition to the daily round of prayer, the Eucharist is celebrated in the chapel on Tuesdays, its congregation of local Christians and visitors from all parts of the world staying on to enjoy prosecco and pranzo (lunch) together.

A gathering place

Courses on spirituality, church history and ecumenism, three or four times a year, utilize the resources of the Eternal City. So for example, in Lent 2013, Dr Paula Gooder’s explorations of the four Gospel accounts of Holy Week will be complemented by visits to a rich gallery of Christian sites and art.

A periodical, Centro, is published in hard copy twice a year and is available online. The past five years have seen the ACR website <www.> upgraded to make it a more effective instrument of communication.

A gathering place for pilgrim groups and often also a venue for diocesan senior staff meetings from the Church of England, the Centre offers spiritual and intellectual renewal for visitors to Rome, individuals and groups, and a unique insight into the palimpsest that is the Eternal City.

‘So we came away feeling that in many mysterious ways the Holy Spirit was seeping into every corner of his universal church with his crystal clear pure water of hope and the privilege of seeing what a lot of doors have been opened and are being kept open by the Anglican Centre to let that water in at ground level.’

Mark Stephens Course attender

Ecumenical vocation

The Centre supports the work of ARCIC, IARCCUM (the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission), the national Anglican-Roman Catholic Commissions (ARCs) and other ecumenical networks and institutions. The Anglican Co-Chair of ARCIC is always a member of the Board of Governors of the Centre.

Since the Anglican Centre’s inception the role of Director has been combined with that of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See. Successive Directors have established friendships and trust

at the highest levels of the Vatican. The Anglican Communion is the only Christian body to have such a representation in Rome accredited by the Holy See.

Increasingly, because of its unique ecumenical vocation and its position at the heart of the Roman Catholic world, the Anglican Centre has also become a focal point of intraAnglican unity. Here Anglicans from widely different theological and ecclesiological perspectives come to work and talk together, to pray and worship together and to learn that what unites them is far more – and more important – than what divides them.

‘The Anglican Centre has become both a focus for creative encounter between Anglicans and Roman Catholics and a major resource for Anglicans of very varied background and conviction. It is a vital gift to the Communion and to the whole ecumenical enterprise.’

+Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury

Looking forward

The Centre focuses and embodies the Anglican yearning for the visible unity of the Church and the time when full Eucharistic fellowship may be restored. Its Governors, drawn from England, Ireland, the USA, New Zealand, Africa and Asia, are passionate about this vision. In November 2011, together with the present Director and assisted by an outside consultant, they agreed a set of priorities and goals for the next five years.

Acknowledging the strategic importance of having a Centre in the heart of Rome, the vision statement describes the ACR as the ‘symbol and embodiment of the Anglican Communion’s commitment to the vision of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ which, through the Director of the Centre, maintains a representative presence of the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury.’

The past decade has seen the development of a way of relating known as ‘Receptive Ecumenism’, a methodology now being employed by ARCIC. This involves asking what

each may learn from the other – and creating an open and accepting environment in which questions may be asked and answers given with friendliness and frankness. The Centre is precisely such a setting, and aims to share its thinking and experience widely with an increased use of electronic and interactive media.

‘The Anglican Centre is a greatly valued resource which - through the presence of its Director, the carefully planned courses it runs, and the welcoming setting it provides - facilitates and encourages ecumenical dialogue.’

+Kurt Card. Koch

President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity

Receptive ecumenism

Over the next five years the Centre plans to offer courses and colloquia in Receptive Ecumenism which provide comparative teachings and practices from disciplines as diverse as theology, sociology, business, anthropology and philosophy. It will also be developing colloquia that explore Anglican understandings of Catholicism, and Catholic understandings of Anglicanism. The aim is to distribute these courses, practices, model relationships, liturgies, and study guides around the world.

Using its friendships it aims also to broker joint endeavours, study and practical mission projects, to build effective structures for common action and to be a focal point for facilitating Anglican collaboration with the offices of the Vatican, especially the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

‘Hand in hand with the theological dialogue, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are encouraged to engage in shared mission, working together for the healing and reconciling of a broken and divided world. The Anglican Centre nurtures those vital partnerships and conversations, in Rome and across the Communion, that help to move us ever closer in common life and witness to the Gospel’.

+ David Hamid Co-Chair, IARCCUM

Building networks

The largest Christian groupings in the world are the Roman Catholic Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion, with a presence in every continent. The opportunities for cooperation are immense, both through international networks and in the local dioceses.

The Governors envisage the Anglican Centre as the hub for developing further the links between the two Churches as they respond together to the needs of an increasingly secularized world. The Governors hope that by augmenting staffing at the Centre, the Director may be freed to follow up initiatives and build an even larger network of relationships within the Vatican.

‘Over the past two decades I have witnessed wonderful collaborative work being pioneered at both local and leadership levels, yet this is rarely reflected in the media and much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the progress in – and potential of - ecumenical relations. The Anglican Centre, together with the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity, is an important partner in this painstaking work of building lasting relationships, showcasing best practice and shedding light on the past, present and future of our journey towards full communion in the Body of Christ.’

Philippa Hitchen Vatican Radio journalist

Forever Anglican

With its Chapel of St Augustine of Canterbury, its library of Anglican theology, spirituality, history and Canon Law, its courses which draw participants from all round the world, its unique connection with, on the one hand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and on the other, the worldwide Church, the Anglican Centre in Rome is a unique expression of Anglican Patrimony and the Anglican commitment to the visible unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

Here is some corner of a foreign field that is forever – Anglican. ND

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