Face-Book – live Ecumenism

Anglicans and Catholics unite…over Facebook Live

Facebook / Archbishop of Canterbury
The nine-minute-long video is also available on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Facebook page.

The heads of the Anglican and Catholic churches in the UK produced their first joint Facebook Live video on Friday afternoon.

It was the Archbishop of Westminster’s first venture into the world of live streaming and he joined the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is becoming a veteran. Justin Welby has hosted a number of Facebook Live videos over recent months and his latest clip, a Bible study with evangelism advisor Chris Russell, has nearly a million views.

Friday’s stream from Lambeth Palace is an unscripted discussion with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic leader in the UK. “Cardinal Vincent and I spend quite a lot of time meeting and we do so quite regularly,” Welby said to introduce the discussion. “It seemed a good idea to open it up and share some of our conversation about things that have happened recently and also have the chance to answer any questions that come in.”

(Click on the full link below for the actual video presentation:)

The Archbishop of Canterbury stressed the pair met often and they seemed to enjoy each other’s company.


The pair are clearly friends. They laughed about unruly parishes and the success of Welby’s recent week of prayer before Pentecost. Many Catholic parishes joined in the call to pray and Nichols admitted he isn’t “quite sure how that happened”. Welby suggested it is probably the first time that has happened since the Reformation.

They moved on to discuss their experiences at Pentecost and responded to questions on how Catholics and Anglicans can work together, what their thoughts on charismatic Christianity were and how to support persecuted Christians around the world.

One does not get the impression Welby particularly enjoys live videos. But he certainly appreciates their importance. One hour after the video went live, more than four thousand people had watched it with the number going up all the time.

The number of views, as well as the comments and questions alongside the video, reflect the intense interest at Lambeth Palace’s arrival to the 21st century. And many expressed their disappointment the discussion had not lasted longer than the 9 minutes, 20 seconds offered. But, given the difficulty of some of the questions asked, perhaps this was wise.

These clips are never going to win awards and Welby is never going to be a top class video presenter. But that is not the point. They offer a relaxed and accessible insight into Welby’s agenda that engages many who would otherwise not care.

On top of that, the significance of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster sitting alongside each other, laughing, joking, and discussing their faith should be not underestimated. Not that many years ago their predecessors would not have been on speaking terms. The video was not just symbolic of Welby’s increasingly digital PR strategy. It was also symbolic of the focus on reconciliation that has characterised his career. In this video, he is building yet another bridge.


Thank to ‘CATHNEWS NZ’ for this story of an historic first in the realm of ‘Face-Book communications. To persuade the Archbishop of Canterbury (Anglican) and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (Roman Catholic) to appear together in a ‘Face-Book’ session  – inviting questions from the general public on matters of common Christian Faith, must be a record.

The number of people logging in to the video clearly demionstrates the uniqueness of this inter-faith meeting in the U.K. While it has been long known that  Archbishop Welby and Cardinal Nichols are friends, it is good to realise that their friendship is close and personal – to the degree that they are not afraid to discuss what is involved in their respective  views ofwhat is involved in their respective leadership of the two largest Christian Churches in the United Kingdom.

In my haste to record this historic event, I must confess I have not yet, myself, seen the video (I have to get off to celebrate Mass at St. Michael and All Angels, Christchurch, NZ, this morning) but I’m really looking forward to it – and the the questions and answers that it contains. All I can say now is, thank God for this sign of ecumenical adventure.


Father Ron Smith


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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