Archbishop Philip Freier has welcomed the ecumenical experience of the new Pope, Francis I, and urged Anglicans to pray for the former Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio who has succeeded Benedict XVI.

“I know that Pope Francis has worked collegially with Anglicans in Argentina and so brings some personal experience to this important area of ecumenical relations,” Dr Freier said. “The task of the Bishop of Rome is extensive and I urge Anglicans to pray for Pope Francis that he may have the closeness to Christ that he will need to fulfil the many aspects of his role.”

The Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, has welcomed the election of Pope Francis and noted that with the Argentinian pontiff and the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby both formally assuming office next week, “two of the largest Christian world communions each have new leaders to face and address the challenges of the future”.
Dr Aspinall, the Archbishop of Brisbane, expressed his support and prayers for Pope Francis, formerly the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
“The election of Pope Francis is of huge significance to our Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as Christians generally,” Archbishop Aspinall said.

“Pope Francis brings with him a wonderful reputation for social justice, care for the poor and humility.

“His appointment as leader of the Roman Catholic Church comes with great hope, expectations and responsibility.

“I offer my support and prayers, along with those of Australia’s Anglicans.”

Archbishop Justin Welby – who will be enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury on 21 March, two days after Pope Francis’ inauguration in St Peter’s Square – offered the new pontiff every blessing in the enormous responsibilities he had assumed on behalf of Roman Catholics around the world.

“His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans,” Archbishop Welby said.
“We have long since recognised—and often reaffirmed—that our churches hold a special place for one another. I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors. May the love of Christ unite us, and intensify our service in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism that can be a blessing for the Body of Christ throughout the world.

“Pope Francis is well known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable. He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows. His choice of the name Francis suggests that he wants to call us all back to the transformation that St Francis knew and brought to the whole of Europe, fired by contemplation and closeness to God.

“As I begin tomorrow a prayer pilgrimage toward my own inauguration as Archbishop in Canterbury next Thursday, Pope Francis will be much in my own prayers, as he will be throughout the coming months and years.”

Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney said: “The papacy continues to have huge global significance in testing times for humanity. We join those who pray that Pope Francis will use the office to further the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of all humanity.”

The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Revd Tara Curlewis, said: “In an age when churches are seeking justice and peace for all, Pope Francis I with his experience and commitment to the poor and his constant call for the eradication of poverty offers the Catholic Church leadership that will be warmly welcomed by the millions of Catholic faithful particularly those in developing nations.

“Australia has always warmly welcomed papal visits and each pope has been remembered for their particular engagement with the Australian people,” Ms Curlewis said. “We look forward to the day when Pope Francis I will visit this land, until then we assure the new pontiff of our prayers.”

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, said the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope was a turning point in the life of the Roman Catholic Church, but it also had an impact on people of other churches and faiths.”

“Together with this humble pilgrim of the church, who has lived a simple lifestyle and reflects a passion for social justice and lifting up the poor, we reaffirm our commitment to seeking justice and peace,” Dr Tveit said.

“We are delighted to greet a pope from Argentina, the first pope from the Global South. Today the vast majority of Christians live in the Global South. The growth of Christianity in the South is likely to continue. This shift has already had an important impact on world Christianity. It is in this context that we will move forward, working together, building our relationship and addressing the important needs of all people today.”

Anglican Ink reports that the Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, Bishop Greg Venables, has applauded the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope, saying he is a devout Christian and friend to Anglicans, who has stood in solidarity with the poor against government corruption and social engineering.

The North American-based website quoted a note released after the election of the Pope Francis on 13 March in which Bishop Venables wrote: “Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him."
Anglican Ink reported that in 2010 Bishop Venables joined forces with then Cardinal Bergoglio to fight an Argentinian Government bill authorising same-sex marriage. Cardinal Bergogolio denounced the move saying “this is no mere legislative bill”. “It is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner responded by saying the cardinal’s statement was “really reminiscent of the times of the Inquisition” and said the proposed law recognised a pre-existing reality and the rights of minorities.

The night before the vote, Catholic and Evangelical leaders organised a march upon the Congress building in Buenos Aires attended by more than 60,000 protesters.

Argentina became the first country in Latin America to recognise same-sex marriage with the passage of the legislation.

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