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Archbishop of Canterbury cites words of Pope Francis at enthronement

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Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury leaves after his enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral
Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury leaves after his enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral March 21. Drawing on the words of Pope Francis and his call for people to be protectors of each other, the new leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion urged people of faith to build up the community of God on earth. (CNS photo/Luke MacGregor, Reuters)

By Simon Caldwell Catholic News Service 

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Drawing on the words of Pope Francis and his call for people to be protectors of each other, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby urged people of faith to build up the community of God on earth.

Archbishop Welby, 57, was enthroned as archbishop of Canterbury and became the spiritual leader of about 77 million Anglicans around the world in ceremonies at Canterbury Cathedral in southeast England March 21.

The archbishop, a former oil executive, recalled the words of Pope Francis during the pontiff’s inaugural Mass March 19, when he urged people to care for one another in order to build a peaceful world.

It is only under “the authority of God … that we may become the fully human community of which we all dream,” Archbishop Welby said during his homily.

The comments were among several references to the increasingly secular nature of British society.

The archbishop warned the congregation, which included British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Charles, of the dangers of losing faith in Jesus.

“For more than a thousand years this country has, to one degree or another, sought to recognize that Jesus is the Son of God, by the ordering of its society, by its laws and by its sense of community,” said Archbishop Welby, a married father of five.

He said that “sometimes we have done better, sometimes worse” and cited the abolition of slavery, the establishment of free health care and great progress in working conditions as the achievements of a society confident in its Christianity.

But he said that today the church was suffering around the world.

“As many Christians are martyred now as in the past,” he said.

“The church transforms society when it takes the risk of renewal in prayer or reconciliation,” the archbishop said, running through a list of ministries, advocacy actions and social services offered to poor and vulnerable people in England and around the world.

“There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of the Christian faith in the world and in this country,” he said.

Archbishop Welby received congratulatory messages from Pope Francis, dated March 18, and Pope Benedict XVI, dated Feb. 4, more than three weeks before Pope Benedict resigned from the papacy.

In his message, Pope Francis assured Archbishop Welby of his prayers “as you take up your new responsibilities.”

“I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me,” the pope said, adding, “I look forward to meeting you in the near future and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed.”

In a longer message, Pope Benedict reminded Archbishop Welby that he was taking up his office “at a time when the Christian faith is being called into question in many parts of the Western world by those who claim that religion is a private matter, with no contribution to offer to public debate.”

“Ministers of the Gospel today have to respond to a widespread deafness to the music of faith and a general weariness that shuns the demands of discipleship,” Pope Benedict wrote.

Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, represented the Vatican at the enthronement.

Senior Catholic leaders at the ceremony included Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, retired archbishop of Westminster.

The inauguration ceremony involved the double formal enthronement of Archbishop Welby in his seat of Canterbury Cathedral and also his installation on the chair of St. Augustine “as primate of All England.” His installation as primate also represented his inauguration as the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

 

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