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Sharing a joint vision of Christianity

— Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury pray for Christian unity in Rome

Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for Christian unity in a rare joint appearance on Saturday.

Leader of the Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams and the Holy Father (right) celebrated vespers together in the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio near the Colosseum in Rome.

Both Christian leaders, who held a private meeting earlier in the day to discuss human rights issues and concerns for the Holy Land, delivered a homily during the vespers and lit candles together in the chapel of St Gregory.

The event was to mark the 1000th anniversary of the monastic Camaldolese Order, who oversee the monastery. In his homily the Pope praised the work of the monks, which he said was of special significance to both Catholic and Anglican traditions.

“Today’s celebration is therefore marked by a profoundly ecumenical character which, as we know, is part and parcel of the modern Camaldolese spirit,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father said that the presence of monks at that location since 600AD was ‘a testimony of God’s faithfulness to His Church, which we are happy to be able to proclaim to the whole world.’

“We hope that the sign of our presence here together in front of the holy altar, where Gregory himself celebrated the Eucharistic sacrifice, will remain not only as a reminder of our fraternal encounter, but also as a stimulus for all the faithful— both Catholic and Anglican—encouraging them, as they visit the glorious tombs of the holy Apostles and martyrs in Rome, to renew their commitment to pray constantly and to work for unity,” he said.

In his homily, Archbishop Williams said the Church was ‘called upon to show that same prophetic spirit which is ascribed to St Gregory, the capacity to see where true need is and to answer God’s call in the person of the needy.’

“To do this, it requires a habit of discernment,” the archbishop said. “Penetration beyond the prejudices and clichés which affect even believers in a culture that is so hasty and superficial in so many of its judgments.”

Christians of all stripes should set ‘aside the distortions in our vision that are caused by selfishness and greed,’ the archbishop added.

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