From The Catholic Herald:
On March 13, Anglican choral Evensong will be celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican for the first time. The Evensong comes five months after Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby celebrated Vespers together at the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio to mark the Anglican Centre’s fiftieth anniversary.
From the Anglican statement:
Permission for this unique occasion was granted by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, during a recent meeting with Archbishop David Moxon, the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Archbishop Moxon will preside at the 3.00pm service, while the preacher will be Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican. The music will be sung by the Choir of Merton College, Oxford. The gesture reflects the deepening bonds of affection and trust between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. It comes just five months after Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby celebrated Vespers together at the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio to mark the Anglican Centre’s fiftieth anniversary. It also reciprocates the liturgical hospitality of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dean Robert Willis in welcoming Cardinal George Pell to celebrate Solemn Mass at the High Altar of Canterbury Cathedral on July 7, 2015. This date has been chosen as the nearest available day to the historic feast day of St Gregory the Great, who has become an unofficial patron of relations between the two churches. St Gregory was the Pope who sent St Augustine to England in 595 to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons and who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Notes to editors:
The Choir of Merton College is one of Oxford’s leading mixed-voice choirs and sings in the thirteenth century chapel. The thirty undergraduates and postgraduates study a number of different subjects and are ordinarily members of Merton College. Outside term, the choir tours regularly, most recently visiting Sweden, France and the USA. Described by Gramophone as “one of the UK’s finest choral ensembles”, the choir regularly broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 live from Merton College Chapel.
Benjamin Nicholas is the Reed Rubin Organist and Director of Music at Merton College, Oxford and has directed the College Choir since 2008. As a conductor he has appeared with the City of London Sinfonia, Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, The Trondheim Soloists and The Holst Singers, in works such as Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, Holst’s Savitri and Duruflé’s Requiem. His most recent organ recording, of Elgar’s organ works, was described by The Sunday Times as ‘a musical achievement…captivating”.
The service will be celebrated according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
Archbishop Moxon is both Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See.
In January 2016, an ancient ivory carving, venerated as the head of the crozier of St Gregory, was sent from Rome to Canterbury as a gesture of support to the Anglican Communion during the highly significant meeting of the Anglican Primates. In October 2016, Pope Francis gave Archbishop Welby a wooden crozier which was modelled on that of St Gregory, and which Archbishop Welby has chosen to use during liturgical celebrations in Canterbury Cathedral.
Evening Prayer is a liturgy in use in the Anglican Communion (and other churches in the Anglican tradition, such as the Continuing Anglican Movement and the Anglican Use of the Roman Catholic Church) and celebrated in the late afternoon or evening. It is also commonly known as Evensong, especially (but not exclusively) when the office is rendered chorally (that is, when most of the service is sung). It is roughly the equivalent of Vespers in the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran churches, although it was originally formed by combining the monastic offices of Vespers and Compline. Although many churches now take their services from Common Worship or other modern prayer books, if a church has a choir, Choral Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer often remains in use because of the greater musical provision. Evening Prayer, like Morning Prayer (Matins) and in contrast to the Eucharist, may be led by a layperson, and is recited by some devout Anglicans daily in private (clergy in many Anglican jurisdictions are required to do so).
Photo: The Anglican Centre in Rome