The Church of England

The Church of England

Upon learning that the population of England was not Christian, Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) sent monks under the leadership of Augustine (d. 604) to convert Britain to Christianity in 596 A.D. Augustine was later named Archbishop of Canterbury. (The present Archbishop of Canterbury is St. Augustine’s 104th successor.)

But missionaries also came to England from another direction. The Irish or Celtic Church, founded by St. Patrick, also sent missionaries like St. Adrian (d. 651) and St. Columba (d. 597).

This meant that there were two sources of English Christianity, the Roman and the Celtic. In 664 these two forms of Christianity combined at the Council of Whitby to form what was called “the Church of England”. While considering itself to be part of the Catholic Church, the Church of England also saw itself as having a degree of independence from the papacy. The Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, declared, for example, that “the Church of England is beholden to no one outside this realm”.

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