POPE FRANCIS 1st
A statement from the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Christopher Hill, Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity and a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission.
As part of a wider Anglican Communion delegation, I shall be privileged to be present in Rome for the Inauguration of the ministry of Pope Francis 1st.
Until the conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio was the Archbishop of one of the major cities of the developing world. His reputation for pastoral care and simplicity (following St Francis) as well as his concern for economic justice will endear him to Anglicans throughout the world, not least our own Archbishop Justin.
Even at the announcement of his election, his 'Buona Sera' (Good evening!) to the crowds in St Peter's Square spoke of a different style of Papacy. This reinforces the inevitably different ethos which will emerge in the Papacy with Pope Benedict's radical decision to retire.
I was also impressed by the stress on his being 'Bishop of Rome' which emerged in just those few first spontaneous words: 'You know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are.'
This is not only a pastoral stress. It is also a fundamental theological principle. The universal Primate, whom some Anglicans and many other Christians are beginning to recognise, is still the bishop of a local church, a bishop of the Church, not a single bishop over the Church.
But the task before Pope Francis is immense. All Christians should pray for him. I shall be praying for him in Rome at his installation on Tuesday, 19th, as I shall be praying for Archbishop Justin, with his enormous responsibilities, at his Installation on Thursday, 21 March in Canterbury Cathedral.
14 March 2013