POPE Benedict XVI made history yesterday by becoming the first pontiff to step foot inside Lambeth Palace.
He was welcomed to the palace by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Also in the welcoming committee were the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu; the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan; and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Most Rev David Chillingworth.
Lambeth Palace, on the south bank of the River Thames, has been the London residence of archbishops of Canterbury since the 13th century.
Dr Williams led the Pope to the Great Hall of the Palace to a gathering of Church of England diocesan bishops and Roman Catholic bishops of England, Scotland and Wales.
The bishops cheered as the pair entered and the Pontiff waved at the crowd.
Dr Williams welcomed the Pope and spoke of the historic visit as “a special time of grace and of growth in our shared calling”.
He said: “It is a particular pleasure that on this historic occasion we are able to come together as bishops of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in this country to greet you, Your Holiness, during a visit which we all hope will be of significance both to the Church of Christ and to British society.”
Dr Williams continued: “Meeting, as we do, as bishops of separated church communities, we must all feel that each of our own ministries is made less by the fact of our dividedness, a very real but imperfect communion. Perhaps we shall not quickly overcome the remaining obstacles to full, restored communion.”
Addressing the bishops, the Pope acknowledged the obstacles to unity between the churches.
The meeting follows tensions between the churches over a scheme unveiled last year by the Vatican allowing disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while retaining key elements of their spiritual heritage.
Meanwhile, police intervened during an angry exchange between protesters and Papal supporters, before boos and cheers greeted the Pope’s departure. As one man, holding hands with two children, attacked campaigners for “ruining the day”, Bill Maloney from Lewisham, said: “I was abused as a child, I’ve every right to be here.”
Protesters held up banners with messages including “where are our women priests?”, “atheism, not nazism” and “No Catholic cover-ups — make our children safe.”
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