The Archbishop of Canterbury is getting a special show of solidarity from the Catholic Church as he convenes Anglican primates from around the world to discuss the future of the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion, which has been badly divided over issues of female bishops and same-sex marriage.

The Vatican has approved the loan of the ivory top of the pastoral staff of St. Gregory the Great, the 6th-century pope who dispatched missionaries to England to spread Christianity. The relic will be displayed in Canterbury Cathedral before and after the Jan. 11-16 Anglican primates' meeting.

Gregory, who was pope from 540-604, sent a mission to England in 597. The mission leader, Augustine, became the first archbishop of Canterbury, and both Augustine and Gregory remain important figures for Anglicans.