By Susan Gately - 25 January, 2019
As Christians gathered across the world this week to pray together for Christian unity, the most senior member of the Church of England has said he is not concerned about Anglican priests who transfer to the Catholic Church, which he described as “such a source of inspiration”.
In an interview with the Spectator magazine published yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was asked what he thought about the hundreds of Anglican priests who have become Catholic priests in the past ten years.
“Who cares?” he replied. “I don’t mind about all that. Particularly if people go to Rome [the Catholic Church] which is such a source of inspiration. I had an email from a very old friend, an Anglican priest who has decided to go to Rome. I wrote back saying: how wonderful! As long as you are following your vocation, you are following Christ. It’s just wonderful.”
The Primate of All England said that what was needed was “for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ.”
The article by Fraser Nelson describes Archbishop Welby as a “bridge-builder” who has brought together a group of young Christians of different denominations called the Community of St Anselm at Lambeth Palace. “One of the prayers we say every morning is for the unity of the church,” said Archbishop Welby. “That seems to me to be much more important. God called the church into being. We, as human beings, have managed to mess that up and split it up.”
According to the Spectator, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s spiritual advisor is a Catholic priest, Fr Nicolas Buttet, and one of his closes friends is the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
“Cardinal Nichols and I would describe each other as very close friends. We see each other regularly, we pray together, we talk together.” Archbishop Welby is also close to Pope Francis. “I go and see the Pope quite regularly. We talk about personal things, about what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ in today’s world. I ask him questions, and he is very helpful.”
He sounds so enthusiastic, writes Fraser Nelson, that he asks the Archbishop of Canterbury if he has ever been tempted to become a Catholic himself. “I think that might cause a little bit of upset – even nowadays,” is the Anglican Primate’s laughing response.
Archbishop Justin Welby became Archbishop of Canterbury six years ago.
The week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends today. One of the final services of the Octave will take place in Christ Church Cathedral Dublin tonight at 8.00 p.m., when Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise and Pobal an Aifrinn will hold their annual interdenominational service. The service will be led by the Revd Gary Hastings.