The Archbishop of Canterbury has described how he and Cardinal Vincent Nichols wept together over the divisions of Christianity at a Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

Archbishop Justin Welby recalled the moment in an article for the Evening Standard marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

He said that he joined the line for Communion and, instead of putting his hands out for the Host, knelt down to be blessed by Cardinal Nichols. “He took my hand and lifted me to my feet,” he said. “Both of us had tears in our eyes.”

The archbishop explained: “We are the closest of friends, and being reminded of the divisions in the global Church pains us both very deeply.”

He said his friendship with Cardinal Nichols showed how Christians had “learned once again to love one another” after the conflicts of the Reformation.

His remarks echoed those of Pope Francis. During a meeting last week with the Rev Derek Browning, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Pope said Christians had learned to recognise they were brothers and sisters rather than enemies.

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