[ACNS source: Lambeth Palace]
4 October 2003
Your Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,
It gives me the greatest pleasure to greet you on this my first visit to the See of Peter. Since the visit of my predecessor Dr Geoffrey Fisher in 1960, each Archbishop of Canterbury has been welcome here, and has found an awareness of fellowship and Christian love. In 1966 Pope Paul VI gave Archbishop Michael Ramsey his own episcopal ring, which has been treasured by his successors and which I wear today. I am glad of the opportunity to thank you for the personal gift of a pectoral cross, sent to me on the occasion of my enthronement earlier this year. As I took on my new ministry I appreciated deeply that sign of a shared task, that of bearing the cross of Christ.
That occasion was also the opportunity to build on a friendship with His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper. Since then, we have met privately and have shared a platform, speaking together about our vision for the unity of the Christian Church. Yesterday we met at the offices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and discussed informally the possibilities and challenges of our way forward together. His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, has also become a close colleague and dear friend. I was glad to be able to sign with him and other leaders of Churches in England a Covenant to work, pray and study together. In God’s grace, it is out of these warm friendships and shared mission that we are enabled to grow together.
Here at the Chair of Peter, from which Augustine was sent to be the first Archbishop of Canterbury, I am glad to reaffirm my commitment to the full, visible unity of the Church of Christ. It is a vision that I know you share, and I rejoice in our shared baptismal faith and the growth in fellowship between our churches. I inherit with gratitude the theological work done by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission over thirty years, and I look forward to the completion of their present mandate with their agreed statement on the Blessed Virgin Mary. I am also encouraged by the creation of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission and the possibilities it is exploring of bringing our theological convergence into practical outcomes that will enrich the lives of our Communions.
It is great joy to be here, in this month of the silver jubilee of your election. Over the last twenty-five years, your pontificate has been a source of strength to countless Christians, and both within and beyond the family of the Roman Catholic Church. Your invitation to Church leaders and theologians to engage with you in a patient and fraternal dialogue about the Petrine ministry is a sign of generosity and openness, and I will be glad to participate in reflection on the possible sharing of a Primacy of love and service. I am glad to be able to present my new Representative to the Holy See, Bishop John Flack, whom I know you will welcome with the warmth and hospitality extended to his predecessors. His ministry, and that of the Anglican Centre of which he is Director, is a sign of the Anglican Communion’s commitment to this dialogue and a means to our growth in deeper understanding and fellowship. I pray that we may continue to deepen the communion we share, until Our Lord’s command is fulfilled that we may be one in him.