Relics of British Christianity that are the property of the Vatican are in England, where they will be displayed at Canterbury Cathedral just ahead of an important summit that may decide the fate of the Anglican Communion.
The first item to arrive was an ivory handle of a staff, or crozier, used by St. Gregory, the pope who helped establish Christianity in England in the sixth century. It was Gregory who sent St. Augustine to England to help convert the Anglo-Saxons. It goes on display Saturday.
Valued at $365,505, the handle will be on view to the public and the 38 Anglican prelates gathering this weekend to attend a make-or-break meeting of the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion, which is bitterly divided on the subjects of full rights for gays, the ordination of women as priests and their consecration as bishops.
The idea of the two Christian churches temporarily exchanging relics came after a cricket match between Catholic and Anglican priests in 2014.
In December, a much more eye-catching relic will be flown in from Rome — the bloodied vestment worn by St. Thomas Becket when he was beheaded at the high altar of Canterbury Cathedral by four armed knights loyal to King Henry II, after a quarrel between the king and his archbishop.
This weekend’s summit will take place in Canterbury beginning Monday.
The crozier handle will be on display in the Canterbury Cathedral Crypt .