LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Over 50 Anglican and Catholic bishops gathered in Leicester to examine opportunities of closer collaboration at a regional and national level. The biennial conference of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales and the Church of England took place Jan. 16-17.

“This meeting has highlighted how very far we have come in our fraternal discussions in the past 50 years. We have a strong bond, we are dealing with the same problems which we must continue to tackle in our different ways and support each other in our love for Christ and His flock,” said Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, a longtime participant in Catholic-Anglican dialogue.

“This meeting has been frank and realistic. I am both encouraged and strengthened by this sincere dialogue and our friendship as brothers and sisters in Christ. We journey onwards in hope – we have so much in common – in this drama of Redemption,” the archbishop said.

The head of the Catholic bishops’ conference Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attended the private meeting.

Dr. Paula Gooder and Professor Paul Murray, members of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), led a reflection on Walking Together On The Way, the commission’s latest statement released last summer.

According to a communique, the bishops also discussed how they might work together to address issues of national importance, including the UK’s relationship with the EU, “recognizing the unique role the Church plays as an instrument of reconciliation and peace in society.”

“This 24-hour period has been a highly stimulating and honest time of sharing: Prayer, fellowship, laughter and mutual support. I would like to think that the body of Christ has been enriched by this time and look forward to other opportunities to engage together,” said the Anglican Bishop of Ripon, Helen-Ann Hartley.