Bishop of Christchurch Michael Gielen says it is a great privilege to be representing New Zealand’s Catholic bishops at a major Anglican-Roman Catholic gathering underway in Rome and then moving to Canterbury, UK.
Bishop Gielen, along with the Anglican Bishop of Auckland, Ross Bay, were representing New Zealand at the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) conference.
The week-long summit, between 22 and 29 January, for ecumenical discussion and pilgrimage in Rome and Canterbury took place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The IARCCUM gathering is called Growing Together. More than 50 bishops, in pairs of Catholics and Anglicans representing 27 regions of the world, took part in the first such event since 2016. IARCCUM aims to foster closer co-operation between the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions and to put into practice progress made in theological conversations.
Visiting holy sites, the bishops have been praying together, reflecting and learning from one another. There is an aspiration to discuss ways of growing together in joint witness and mission in the world.
Bishop Gielen said he has been inspired by the rich history of IARCCUM during the gathering.
‘It has been a deep privilege to join with fellow bishops of our respective churches from around the world, hearing their stories and, in many cases, their profound challenges, while continuing to celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ we share,’ Bishop Gielen said.
Bishop Bay attended the last IARRCUM summit in 2016. He said walking alongside Bishop Gielen, with whom he serves as a co-chair of the local New Zealand Anglican-Catholic dialogue, has opened up opportunities.
‘As a result of being together here I hope that we will grow in our commitment to express our unity in more tangible ways through our common mission,’ said Bishop Bay.
Among the highlights of the gathering was a liturgy for the participating bishops with Pope Francis and with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
On 25 January, at the tomb of St Paul in Rome, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby commissioned the bishops ‘in pairs, to be witnesses to Christian unity,’ before the bishops moved to Canterbury until 29 January to discuss the future work of IARCCUM.