By Andrea Gagliarducci
Pope Francis will visit All Saints Anglican Church in Rome Feb. 26 to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City.
Jonathan Boardman, who serves as parish priest of All Saints, confirmed the news to EWTN News.
“The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, and it will follow the Eucharist celebrated in the morning by our bishops to mark our 200th anniversary,” he said.
The Pope will not celebrate Vespers, as he did in San Gregorio al Celio with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, on Oct. 5, 2016. However, he will take part in the blessing and dedication of an icon to celebrate the church’s anniversary, Boardman reported.
“Then, together with our bishops, the Pope will renew baptismal vows, in a spirit of communion, even though we cannot have full communion,” the Anglican clergyman said.
At present, the calendar of the All Saints Church’s website describes the Feb. 26 afternoon meeting as an “ecumenical service for the 200th anniversary.”
At the end of the celebration, Boardman said, “Pope Francis will witness a twinning between our parish and the Catholic church of All Saints in Rome, the only Catholic church in the Rome area dedicated to All Saints.”
The All Saints Catholic Church is famous because it is the site where Blessed Paul VI celebrated the first Mass according to the Novus Ordo.
Boardman said the event builds on good Catholic-Anglican relations in Rome.
“Our two communities have already a lot of activities in common, a working friendship that is expressed, for instance, in the common service to poor,” he said. “Now, we are going to seal it with a symbolic twinning.”
The anniversary event has been planned for years. Boardman said the parish first sent an invitation to the Pope three years ago, then sent two other letters.
He also gave a personal invitation to the Pope in November 2015, when Pope Francis visited the Lutheran parish in Rome.
“When I wrote again, he knew who I was,” Boardman said.
The community that would become All Saints Anglican Church in Rome was inaugurated Oct. 27, 1816. It serves about 250 Anglican faithful, though not all of them take part in Sunday services.
Boardman thought the anniversary event will mark the first time a Pope visited an Anglican parish.
St. John Paul II visited Canterbury Cathedral, while Benedict XVI visited Westminster Abbey.
David Moxon, director of the Anglican Center in Rome and an Anglican archbishop, said that Robert Innes and David Hamid, Anglican bishops, will take part in the celebration. Both play leading roles in the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe.
Boardman recounted previous good interactions between leading Anglican churchmen and the Pope.
The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has met with Pope Francis multiple times and at least four times in the last year.
The October 2016 meeting in San Gregorio al Cielo marked the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s gift of his episcopal ring to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Anglican Center in Rome.