Westcountry bishops join together for historic global pilgrimage that hopes to bring greater unity to the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches

Copyright: Anglican Archives flickr

Copyright: Anglican Archives flickr

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, The Most Reverend Mark O’Toole, and the Anglican Bishop of Truro, The Right Reverend Tim Thornton, are currently on a pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome in a bid to help bring unity to the two churches.

Their visit marks the 50th anniversary of the visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI – which was the first such formal visit to a pope by a leader of the Anglican Church since the reformation.

Bishops Mark and Tim form one of 19 ‘pairs’ from across the world who have been working together in preparation for the pilgrimage. They have been together in Canterbury, under the shadow of the cathedral with all its symbolism, and were joined by Archbishop Justin who spent time talking, listening and praying with them.

Later this week in Rome they will be joined by Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis. In addition to praying with and talking to the bishops, the church leaders will then commission the bishops to continue their pilgrimage. They will challenge them to focus their work on spending time with the poor and finding ways to share the gospel with others.

Bishop Mark said: “It is a huge privilege for me, as a relatively new bishop, to be part of this group who will be making the pilgrimage to Canterbury, and then to Rome.

“During this week I can but think of that first ‘sending forth’ of Pope St Gregory to St Augustine, in order to build and strengthen the Christian Faith in our country.  As we meet in Rome with Pope Francis and with Archbishop Justin, at the site in which that first commissioning took place, I will be praying most especially that we can all have a renewed sense of the power of the gospel to transform lives.

“I am especially pleased to be making this pilgrimage with Bishop Tim of Truro; our friendship has grown over these past two years, and I look forward to deepening ways in which we may more concretely give witness to our love of Jesus Christ, and to serve those most in need.”

Bishop Tim said: “It is a most significant week and there are many symbolic moments and events in it.  For me it is crucial that we pray and listen to each other to strive to discern what God is saying to us.  We live in an age in which for many reasons organised institutional religion is in decline in many parts of the world.  Yet we also live at a time when prayer and the importance of walking with all those on the margins of our society has never been more needed and more attractive to large numbers of people.

“Bishops are called on to witness and lead as they discover new ways to be together.  As we move to commemorate next year the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is time that we moved closer together and listened even more carefully to the words of Christ in the gospel who prays to God the Father that we all might be one so that the world might believe. (John chapter 17)

“I am looking forward to this pilgrimage and to walking alongside Bishop Mark.  It will be a privilege to be with the Archbishop and Pope Francis and it will be a joy to be with other pairs of bishops from across the world.

“I hope we can find some new energy for our work of building unity and working to ensure the good news of the gospel is good news and is communicated much more broadly in our noisy and busy world.”