Anglican liturgy to be sung and celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica
An Anglican liturgy will be celebrated at the heart of the Catholic Church when choral evensong takes place in St Peter’s basilica next month. The event on March 13 is an important ecumenical symbol and a sign of the growing appreciation in Rome for the Anglican choral tradition. Evensong, the equivalent of vespers, will be sung by the choir of Merton College, Oxford accordion to the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, a liturgical book initially authored by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, a leader of the English reformation later executed by Catholic monarch Queen Mary.
Relations between Anglicans and Catholics have come a long way since then with a warm friendship between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Pope Francis, both of whom want to take practical steps towards Christian unity. Five months ago the archbishop celebrated vespers with the Pope at the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio where Welby gave Francis his pectoral cross, in a vivid symbol of reconciliation. The cross was made out of nails from Coventry Cathedral that was destroyed in second world war and is now a symbol of an international peace-making ministry.
The 3pm evensong service will be presided over by Archbishop Sir David Moxon, the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, while Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary at the Holy See’s liturgy office, will deliver a homily.
Permission for the service was granted by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, during a recent meeting with Archbishop Moxon, who is also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See.
It also repays the liturgical hospitality offered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dean Robert Willis in welcoming Cardinal George Pell to celebrate Solemn Mass at the High Altar of Canterbury Cathedral last July.
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