by Jonathan Wright, Catholic Herald
The ecumenical process will be enlivened by the Pontiff and archbishop having some spirited rows
There can be little doubt that the new Pope and the new Archbishop of Canterbury will get along very well. The two men share an admirable concern for the poor and the disenfranchised. They have similar styles when it comes to meet-and-greets and, perhaps most significantly, there is considerable harmony when it comes to the taproots of their spirituality. Welby, the Anglican who has sought spiritual advice from Catholics, is also a fan of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Pope’s order. Francis, the Catholic who knows the value of grassroots initiatives, will have been impressed by Welby’s pre-enthronement “prayer pilgrimage”.
The similarities can be exaggerated, of course. That puzzling word “evangelical” has been mentioned a lot in recent weeks, but there is room for caution. An evangelical Catholic (and we might as well go by George Weigel’s detailed, but still rather hazy definition) is not the same as a Protestant Evangelical, and I can’t imagine that Francis would be terribly impressed by everything that transpires at Holy Trinity Brompton. Still, there is a lot of common ground, and this is marvellous. There was a time when popes and Archbishops of Canterbury spat anathemas at each other and traded accusations of heresy. It is good that we are past all that: sending congratulatory messages is much healthier for the Christian commonwealth than burning martyrs at the stake or indulging in continent-blighting religious wars. This doesn’t mean, however, that there should be no tension between Rome and Canterbury. It should always be a respectful but slightly awkward relationship, and there must always be an opportunity to articulate profound differences of opinion. This serves to make both communions stronger and lends moments of genuine agreement much greater significance. With some audacity I urge the Pope and the archbishop to bear this in mind whenever they share a pot of tea.