Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences
By Catherine Hornby
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis and the new head of the world's Anglicans acknowledged deep differences over issues ranging from gay rights to women priests but pledged to seek unity when they met on Friday for the first time since both took office in March.
Relations between the Catholic and Anglican churches have been strained for years, especially over Anglican ordination of women as priests, and the meeting at the Vatican was billed as an opportunity to reduce tensions.
Welcoming Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to the Vatican, Francis called for Christians to work together to protect the "foundations of society" such as respect for human life and the institution of the family built on marriage.
Francis was inaugurated as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on March 19, following Benedict's abdication, and just two days before Welby officially took over from Rowan Williams as head of the 80-million-strong Anglican Communion.
Welby said on Friday he hoped the proximity of the two leaders' inaugurations would "serve the reconciliation of the world and the Church", while noting the difficulties ahead.
"The journey is testing and we cannot be unaware that differences exist about how we bring the Christian faith to bear on the challenges thrown up by modern society," he said.
Anglican ordination of women is a thorny issue between the two Churches, with the Vatican firmly opposed to female priests, and attempts by Francis' predecessor Benedict to woo disaffected Anglicans back to Catholicism has caused more friction.
In 2009, Benedict decreed that Anglicans who feel their Church had become too liberal could find a home in Catholicism in a parallel hierarchy that allows them to keep some of their traditions, such as parts of the Anglican liturgy and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Continued...