The Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope John Paul pledged Monday to work toward the reunification of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, which split in 1534 when English King Henry VIII refused to accept papal authority.
A joint declaration issued by the two religious leaders said many obstacles remained but made no direct reference to the still thorny issue of papal primacy.The issue is highly controversial, particularly in Britain, because of Archbishop Robert Runcie's appeal to Anglicans to consider eventually accepting the pope as the head of a reunified church.
"We here solemnly recommit ourselves and those we represent to the restoration of visible unity and full ecclesial communion in the confidence that to seek anything less would be to betray our Lord's intention for the unity of his people," the declaration said.
The two religious leaders, representing 850 million Roman Catholics and 70 million Anglicans, signed the declaration in the pope's private library after the fourth and last meeting of Runcie's first official visit to the Vatican.
They then recited the Lord's Prayer aloud together with their delegations in English.
Runcie thanked the pope and his aides for the "friendly and frank" talks during his visit.