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What do ecumenical gestures really mean?

At his blog Archbishop Cranmer, the Anglican Adrian Hilton pondered Pope Francis’s gift to Justin Welby: “a crozier, symbolising episcopal jurisdiction”. This gift, and the Pope’s warm words to Welby, suggested to Hilton that Francis was trying to say something. “So Anglican priests are priests equal with those of Rome; not laymen masquerading as prelates? Her sacraments are real? Her salvation assured?”

But then, Church documents say Anglican orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void”. And the Church of England’s 39 Articles “considers that ‘The Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith’.”

On his blog, Fr Ray Blake said the symbolism shouldn’t be over-interpreted. “Gestures are simply that, gestures,” he wrote. What does it mean, beyond a photo opportunity? Well, little. It is an act of friendship.”

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