Head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Justin Welby, has said that he “doesn’t mind at all” if Anglican Christians convert to Catholicism. The most senior clergyman in the denomination has made efforts to warm relations between the Anglicans and Catholics since he was appointed to the position in 2012.
In a recent interview with British publication The Spectator, Welby was asked about the large number of Anglican ministers who are heading to Rome and becoming Catholic priests. While you might expect Welby to be slightly perturbed by this fact, the archbishop gave a surprisingly non-defensive answer.
“Who cares?” he asked. “I don’t mind about all that. Particularly if people go to Rome, which is such a source of inspiration.”
“I had an email from a very old friend, an Anglican priest who has decided to go to Rome. I wrote back saying: how wonderful! As long as you are following your vocation, you are following Christ. It’s just wonderful. What we need is for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ.”
Welby has long been a champion of the Vatican, and has a particular affinity for the character, and perhaps also the political leanings, of Pope Francis. In addition, the archbishop’s spiritual adviser is none other than Fr. Nicolas Buttet, a Catholic priest. The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, is also a close colleague and friend.
“Cardinal Nichols and I would describe each other as very close friends” Welby said. “We see each other regularly, we pray together, we talk together.”
“I go and see the Pope quite regularly,” he added. “We talk about personal things.”
In a short biographical video posted to the archbishop’s website, a framed document can be seen in his Lambeth Palace office which boldly declares, “Canterbury and Rome: Meeting, Talking, Walking TOGETHER,” along with a picture of Welby walking alongside Pope Francis.
So would Welby, clearly an avid supporter of the Catholic Church and its mission, ever think of defecting?
“I think that might cause a little bit of upset,” he laughed. “Even nowadays.”