Anglican Choral Evensong was celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican for the first time on Monday.
The service was presided over by Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, while Archbishop Arthur Roche, Vatican Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, preached a homily. Music was sung by the choir of Merton College, Oxford.
According to the Anglican Centre’s website, the service was held in honour of St Gregory the Great on the nearest day to his old feast day.
St Gregory was the Pope who sent St Augustine to England to evangelise the Anglo Saxons. 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. After that meeting, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby celebrated Vespers together at the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome.
The service on Monday afternoon ended with a procession to the tomb of St Gregory where prayers were said for the whole Christian church.
In his homily during the service, Archbishop Roche said: “I think Gregory was a very courageous man in his own time and I think that speaks to us here still today, that despite the difficulties, to be outgoing, just as Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby have been saying, to proclaim the Gospel with joy.”
Last month, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit an Anglican church in Rome. Francis and an Anglican bishop prayed side by side at All Saints Church in central Rome.