In the parish lounge at Most Precious Blood, the Ordinariate church in South London, we are building a collection of photographs. They are images of Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury, meeting each other: they are a constant reminders of the vocation of the Ordinariate to pioneer the reunion of the Church of England (and the whole Anglican Communion) with the Catholic Church. This is to happen, not by absorption, but by the re-making of the Communion of the Church. For this unity and communion, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, has a special care and concern.
The picture above shows one such meeting. Pope John Paul II, is clearly weakened by advancing Parkinsons. The Archbishop, younger and stronger, kneels to kiss his ring. (And immediately afterwards the Pope kisses the ring on the hand of the Archbishop, given to Archbishop Michael Ramsey by Pope Paul VI) What is so moving about this image is how it reverses the power structures of the world. The Pope is weak, bowed over in his chair – yet he is a living witness to St Paul’s cry, “For when I am weak then I am strong”. The Archbishop is not there to “submit” to a worldly image of Papal power, but he acknowledges by his gesture the moral authority of one who is now sharing the weakness and humiliation of Christ. “I when I am lifted up will draw all men to myself.”
In this photo Pope John XXIII meets the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth II. The photographer has caught the animation and the smiles as they walk together, in spite of the (to our eyes) splendour and formality of their dress. Many Anglicans – and Anglicans-who-are-now-Catholics – revere John XXIII for his vision and courage in calling the Second Vatican Council. The renewal of the life of the Catholic Church, brought about by the Council, was a godsend on the path to unity. Undoubtedly Vatican 2 opened the doors to the reconciliation of many Christians, and to their embrace within the communion of the Church.
Thank God for Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.