Readers of this blog may find that this is getting rather repetitive, but Anglican-Roman Catholic history was made yet once again on Monday afternoon! For the first time ever the service of Anglican Evensong, according to the Book of Common Prayer, was celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Archbishop David Moxon, the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, led the service using Cranmer's ancient words. Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, one of the most senior Englishmen in the Vatican, preached the sermon. The choir of Merton College Oxford sang the service.
The service was held in honour of St Gregory the Great on the nearest day to his old feast day, 12th March, which is still the date for the observance in the BCP. Pope St Gregory the Great sent St Augustine to England to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons. He has become an unofficial patron of the most recent ecumenical exchanges between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. His crozier-head was sent to Canterbury as a gesture of support during the Primates' Meeting in January 2016 and Pope Francis gave Archbishop Justin Welby a wooden crozier modelled on it during their meeting in October.
At the conclusion of the service itself we processed to the tomb of St Gregory in the Basilica, where Cardinal George Pell and I led prayers to honour the saint.
The clergy and many members of our parish of All Saints were present, and the servers, who are surely among the finest in Christendom, were provided by us!