Anglican Mass at Pope’s cathedral!


A  communication breakdown led to permission being given to a group of Anglican clergy (some pictured) to celebrate the Eucharist in the pope’s cathedral, Rome’s Basilica of St John Lateran last Tuesday.

Auxiliary Bishop Guerino Di Tora of Rome, vicar for the basilica’s chapter, has acknowledged and apologised for the communication problem, which led to an Anglican bishop and 50 priests celebrating the Anglican service on the main altar.

The service was part of a conference in Rome for Anglo-Catholic clergy.

Benedictine Father Martin Browne, an official at the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, noted the apology.

“I also think that everyone acted in good faith and without any intent to cause offence or embarrassment to anyone else.

“That the celebration has caused comment is perhaps, above all else, a reminder of the need to pray continually for the Lord’s gift of unity, so that all may one day celebrate at the same altar the saving mysteries of the one Lord.”

Ecumenical reciprocity

The Vatican “Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism” says Catholic churches are “generally reserved for Catholic worship.”

However, Browne says “it does not rule out celebrations by communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church.”

Rather, such hospitality can be offered when other Christians “do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies.

“One presumes that the request was granted in that spirit of reciprocity, welcoming what was clearly an Anglican pilgrim group.”

While the visiting Anglicans could have celebrated at the Anglican parish in the centre of Rome, Browne says the directory also encourages “a certain ‘reciprocity’.

“Sharing in spiritual activities and resources, even with defined limits, is a contribution in a spirit of mutual good will and charity, to the growth of harmony among Christians.”

Browne says many of the great historical cathedrals of the Church of England occasionally welcome groups from other churches, including the Catholic Church, to celebrate the Eucharist.

“Such hospitable gestures are always appreciated,” he says.

Just the same, “it would have been more appropriate if this dicastery and other relevant entities of the Holy See had been involved in considering the request.”

Private celebration

The Anglican celebration took place in the apse, which was clearly roped off, with staff on duty throughout.

No members of the public nor anybody else was present or nearby, so there was no chance that a pilgrim or tourist could have attended and thought it was a Catholic Mass, Browne says.

A statement from the office of the archpriest of the basilica expressed “profound regret”.

The Anglican celebration violated canonical norms. As the seat of the pope in his capacity of bishop of Rome, St John Lateran ranks highest among the four Vatican basilicas in Rome.


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