Pope Francis’ historic visit to Anglican Chaplaincy

The icon of St Saviour (detail) at All Saints Church in Rome
The icon of St Saviour (detail) at All Saints Church in Rome

Pope Francis became the first pontiff to set foot inside an Anglican church in his own diocese as the Bishop of Rome on Sunday, when he visited All Saints Chaplaincy. While attending Choral Evensong, he also blessed an icon of St Saviour, which had been commissioned to mark the church's 200th anniversary. He encouraged the congregation to "walk together" in their quest for greater unity, saying that it could not be achieved "in a laboratory".

All Saints was established by a small group of worshippers in October 1816 and the icon was commissioned and made by British artist Ian Knowles, director of the Bethlehem Icon Centre. Pope Francis joined the congregation on Sunday for a short Choral Evensong service, which included the blessing of the icon. The event also marked the twinning of All Saints with the Catholic parish of Ognissanti, a Rome church with strong ecumenical ties.The exterior of All Saints Church in Rome

The current All Saints Church is renowned for its excellent acoustics and frequently hosts classical concerts by the Filarmonica d’Opera di Roma, the Solisti dell’Opera, the Ensemble Concerto Barocco, and many more international orchestras. Located close to the Spanish steps, it was designed by one of the most famous British architects of the Victorian era, George Edmund Street, whose works include the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the nave of Bristol Cathedral and the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

Greater closeness between the denominations

The neo-Gothic Church of All Saints in Rome (right) was officially opened on Easter Sunday 1887 and is noted for its white travertine spire, its marbled columns and arches, and its fine stained glass windows. These depict the lives of martyrs and saints, including St Bede, from whose homilies Pope Francis chose his own Episcopal motto, Miserando atque eligendo ("because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him").

Pope Francis blesses the icon of St Saviour at All Saints Church in Rome: CTV screenshot/CNAPope Francis was welcomed to All Saints by Diocesan Bishop Robert Innes, together with his suffragan, Bishop David Hamid. During the afternoon liturgy, he used the historic occasion to press for greater closeness between the Catholic and Anglican Churches after centuries of mistrust, prejudices and hostility. "You have to search through dialogue, through roots, through sacraments," the Pope said. "There are things we're not in agreement on, but you cannot do this in a laboratory. You have to do this walking together."

The Catholic parish of Ognissanti on the Via Appia Nuova, with which All Saints was twinned on Sunday, is the titular church of Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It was there that Pope Paul VI celebrated the first Mass in Italian on 7 March 1965, following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Members of All Saints and Ognissanti have worked together informally for almost a decade, attending each other’s liturgical celebrations and providing services to the hungry and homeless.

Updated 28 February 2017