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Pope Francis to say joint prayers with Anglican chief

Pope Francis (right) shakes hands with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican in 2013 © Pool/AFP/File / Alessandra Tarantino

Rome, Italy, Oct 3 – Pope Francis and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will attend a special service in Rome on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the first joint prayer of a Catholic pontiff and a head of the Church of England.

The two men will preside over vespers, or evening prayers, in the ancient church of San Gregorio al Celio in the Italian capital.

The service has been organised to mark 50 years since a historic meeting between the then archbishop, Michael Ramsey, and Pope Paul VI.

That encounter sealed a rapprochement between the Vatican and the Anglican Church of England, which broke away from Rome under Henry VIII in the 16th Century.

It also led to the creation of the Anglican Centre in Rome, which will this week mark its 50th anniversary with a conference of bishops from both traditions.

Welby will have a private audience with Francis on Thursday.

Closer ties with other faiths and branches of Christianity have been a priority for Francis since he became pope in 2013.

He met top Orthodox cleric Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in February and he is due in Sweden in October as a guest of the Lutheran church for events marking 500 years since the start of the Protestant reformation.

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