The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Historic handshake: pope to meet a clergywoman for first time

It will happen during his upcoming trip to the UK.

From the Guardian:

Pope Benedict’s arrival in Britain breaks new ground on many levels, with a state welcome from the Queen and the beatification of Cardinal Henry Newman. But buried in the itinerary is another and, some would say, more piquant landmark.


Next Friday, the pope will meet the Rev Jane Hedges, canon steward of Westminster Abbey and a campaigner for women bishops in the Church of England. It will be the first time the head of the Vatican, which earlier this year declared female ordination a “crime against the faith”, shakes hands with a clergywoman.

Their meeting will act as a reminder of the differences and difficulties between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic church. The abbey team is aware of the many historic aspects to the visit.

“We shall greet this pope as our guest. There will no hint of battle,” wrote the dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, last week in the Tablet, a weekly Catholic newspaper.

An ecumenical evensong will begin with an exchange of peace between the archbishop of Canterbury and Benedict XVI, and include a psalm, the Magnificat, readings and prayers. “I have no doubt that it will be a memorable occasion. Yet it will also be coloured by many emotions,” Hall said.

You can read more at the link.

Comments read comments(4)
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Chris Ruddy

posted September 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Pope Benedict greeted and shook the hands of several clergywomen in the sanctuary when he presided at the ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph’s Church in Manhattan in April 2008. One of them was Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s youngest child.
And, as recessed down the main aisle, he went out of his way to shake the hand of a female Lutheran pastor wearing a collar. He was smiling. As was she.

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Peter Brown

posted September 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Dog bites man, I think. From Pope Benedict’s point of view, Ms. Hedges might be a very nice woman who isn’t a priest although she thinks she is. But she’s really not that different from the Archbishop of Canterbury (or anybody else ordained as an Anglican) in that regard.

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posted September 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm


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Edgar R. Schneider

posted September 8, 2010 at 8:35 am

I forget the year, but, when Paul VI visited the USA, it ended with a mass at Yankee Stadium. Toward the side was a section reserved for prominent clergy of other faiths, including Episcopal Bishop Horace Donegan. After the mass, Pope Paul went directly there to shake hands with those non-Catholic clergy. Bishop Donegan kissed the Pope’s ring, after which, Pope Paul kissed Bishop Donegan’s ring.

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