The ivory handle of a crozier used by Saint Pope Gregory I is to go on display in Canterbury Cathedral this month, by permission of the Vatican.
The staff, used by the Pope who helped to establish Christianity in England during the 6th century, will be flown from Rome to the cathedral tomorrow under tight security restrictions.
Pope Gregory appointed St Augustine of Canterbury, then the prior of a monastery in Rome, to lead a mission to evangelise Britain in 595.
Dr Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, said: “We are very pleased to receive the crozier as a symbol of ecumenical encouragement at this time of the meeting of Anglican Primates and as a link with St Gregory whose vision of the conversion of England caused Augustine to found the community at Canterbury.”
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the staff symbolises the strong link between Catholics and Anglicans.
He said: “Allow me at this point to congratulate you on the highly symbolic value of the loan of this relic, dear to the Church of England, which venerates Pope St Gregory the Great, the promoter of the evangelising mission to the Anglo-Saxon people and is therefore a mark of the bond that spiritually unites the Catholic and Anglican Churches.”
The ancient relics of the murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket will also go on display in Canterbury this year.
The relics are housed in Hungary and are venerated at Esztergom Basilica on December 29 every year.
The relics, which include Becket’s bloodstained vestments, will be displayed for veneration at Canterbury Cathedral in May.
Their visit was arranged by Hungary’s embassy in London as well as by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Becket was murdered at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 by followers of King Henry II for standing up to the king’s demands on the Church.
He was canonised by Pope Alexander III soon after his death.
According to tradition, the saint’s relics were brought to Hungary following Becket’s death by his friend Cardinal Lukács Bánffy.