Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has begun a 16-day visit to India by paying tribute to Mother Teresa at her tomb in Kolkata, the north eastern city once known as Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury had expressed a desire to visit Mother Teresa's tomb first when the trip was planned," Ashoke Biswas, the Church of North India bishop of Kolkata, told ENInews on Oct. 11.
After praying on Oct. 9 at the tomb of Mother Teresa, Williams visited the room of the Roman Catholic nun who would become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the exhibition on her life at the Mother House of her Missionaries of Charity.
Later, the archbishop proceeded to a CNI school where children sang two poems -- one by Mother Teresa and the other by Williams -- to melodies composed by the school musician.
The following day, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion preached at St. Peter's church in Kolkata, visited an AIDS hospice and a nursing college run by the CNI, before a service at St. Paul's Cathedral to mark a global day of prayer for the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.
In a sermon, Williams urged Christians to see the poverty-reducing goals not just as a concern for those in government, but as aims that should be pursued within their own communities.
"We want, as churches, to be a community where vulnerable people are safe, where education and nurture are guaranteed, where all have access to justice, where the material world is honored and properly cared for, where healing is available for all," said Williams.
The service was followed by a public reception attended by top government officials led by M. K. Narayanan, the West Bengal state governor, and federal railway minister Mamata Banerjee.
On Oct. 14, the Williams is to be hosted at a celebration at Nagpur in central India to mark the 40th anniversary of the CNI as a grouping uniting Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Disciples, Methodist and Presbyterian traditions.
At Chennai on Oct. 16, Williams will visit St. Thomas Mount. There Thomas, the apostle of Jesus, is reputed to have embraced martyrdom as one of the first Christians to arrive in India.
In Chennai, the Anglican leader will meet bishops of the Church of South India, a united church inaugurated in 1947. In Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state, where his wife Jane was born, the archbishop will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the CSI's Diocese of Central Kerala.
Williams' visit will culminate at a meeting with leaders of the Mar Thoma Church, which together with the CNI and CSI constitutes the Communion of Churches in India, and is in full communion with the churches of the 77-million strong Anglican Communion.