Pope Francis deepens ties with Anglicans

ROME • Pope Francis has attended a service at the All Saints' Church in Rome, becoming the first pontiff in history to visit an Anglican church in the Italian capital.

The Pope's visit on Sunday marked the 200th anniversary of the All Saints' church and furthered a rapprochement between the Vatican and the Church of England that began last year.

In another sign of closer ties, the Pope spoke of the "possibility" of a visit to troubled South Sudan - engulfed since 2013 in civil war - with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, his Anglican counterpart.

Pope Francis added that such a visit would only be for a single day "because the situation is difficult there". He recalled that South Sudan's Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian bishops went to Rome last October to discuss the situation in their country, and invited him to visit.

"As Catholics and Anglicans, we are humbly grateful that, after centuries of mutual mistrust, we are now able to recognise that the fruitful grace of Christ is at work also in others," the Pope said in a sermon on Sunday.

"Today we can be encouraged by our gathering."

Closer ties with other faiths and branches of Christianity have been a priority for Pope Francis since he became Pope in 2013.

Last October, he attended a special service in Rome with Archbishop Welby to mark the 50th anniversary of the first joint prayer of a Catholic pontiff, Pope Paul VI, and a head of the Church of England, then Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

The Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church under King Henry VIII in the 16th century, and Anglicans have not recognised the pontiff as their spiritual leader since then.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Pope Francis deepens ties with Anglicans'. Print Edition | Subscribe