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A new phase of dialogue

· Relations with the Anglican Communion and the World Methodist Council in 2010 ·

The Anglican Communion

Internal Developments

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion in 2010 continue to be dominated by events within the Anglican Communion, which affect in the first place internal relations, but which also have in impact on ecumenical affairs. Following the confirmation of the election of a second bishop in a homosexual partnership in the Episcopal Church of America in March, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a pastoral letter at Pentecost requesting that all Episcopal delegates withdraw from official ecumenical dialogues. The same prohibition is being considered for those representatives of Provinces, mainly in Africa and South America, which continue to assume ecclesiastical jurisdiction over dissident groups of Anglicans in the United States and Canada.

The Archbishop has proposed an “Anglican Covenant” as a way of strengthening the internal bonds of Communion, not in terms of central or coercive authority, but through an “intensification” of relations. A final version of the Anglican Covenant was sent to all the Provinces of the Communion for approval, and during the year some have already reported that they will adopt the Covenant. In other Provinces, such as England and America, the document is still under review, and is eliciting strong responses for and against it. Critics feel that it is too authoritarian and punitive, although the measures of censure for those not acting in accord with decided Anglican policy have been considerably diluted. It is unclear what the future will be for the Covenant; the Archbishop has placed his own authority behind it, so that rejection of the Covenant may also damage his position.

While issues that seem to threaten the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion have deepened, creating further difficulties in ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church, both partners have nevertheless committed to a new round of official international dialogues, and affirmed the importance of their ecumenical discussions.

Anglicanorum Coetibus’

The effects of the 2009 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus continue to be discussed. The Constitution provides for groups of Anglicans and former Anglicans, who have over a significant period requested some form of corporate admission to full communion with the Holy See. Ordinariates will be established for them, in close relation to the local Catholic Church, but permitting a significant element of Anglican Patrimony to be retained. Within the Anglican Communion, particularly in England, Australia and the United States, groups of Anglicans have indicated interest in the Ordinariates, and discussions have taken place with the relevant Bishops’ Conferences. In several places, Catholic Bishops have sought advice from their Anglican counterparts on the potential content of an Anglican Patrimony, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in India in October, affirmed that he would work with the Catholic Church in England and Wales to ensure that the establishment of an Ordinariate was successful. In England, five bishops and about fifty clergy have indicated that they will join the Ordinariate, and the English and Welsh Bishops have published a timetable for its establishment. Some Anglicans opposed to recent developments in their Communion are seeking to establish a similar body within Anglicanism, or are asking for some assurances that their position will be safeguarded within the Anglican Communion. The success or otherwise of these initiatives will undoubtedly have a bearing on the numbers who eventually decide to enter the Ordinariates. Throughout these events, the Pontifical Council has affirmed that its traditional ecumenical work, and its historic relations with its ecumenical partners, will continue, with the realism that these new developments demand.

Papal Visit to Great Britain

From 16–19 September, the Holy Father made the first ever State Visit to Great Britain, which was by common consent a notable success. Although the key themes of the visit were the promotion of faith in society, and the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, there was a strong ecumenical element throughout the journey. The tone was set when Pope Benedict met Queen Elizabeth ii, who is not merely Head of State but also Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The warmth and courtesy of their addresses testified to the transformation in relations between these two traditions after centuries of hostility. At that meeting, which took place in Scotland, ecumenical leaders from Scotland, England and Wales were present. Later, in London, the Holy Father addressed a meeting of Catholic and Anglican Bishops at Lambeth Palace, commending the achievements of the official dialogue and, despite acknowledging current difficulties, affirming the importance of future contacts both at a formal and informal level. Following his Discourse in Westminster Hall where he spoke of the positive contribution of faith to society, the Holy Father called upon a congregation of representatives from different Christian traditions in Westminster Abbey to undertake this task of bringing the Christian Gospel into British society. The Archbishop of Canterbury replied in warm terms, underlining the Benedictine heritage of Anglicanism which provides a fruitful connection between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. The Visit of the Holy Father further cemented the warm relations which exist between Catholics and Anglicans in Great Britain and throughout the world.

Visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury

In November, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Rome in order to address the symposium being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. The Archbishop was received in Audience by the Holy Father, with whom he held private talks. The Visit also gave him an opportunity to hold useful discussions at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which further affirmed the importance of the official ecumenical dialogue, and provided a positive prelude both to the official talks with the Anglican Communion which were to take place soon afterwards, and to the new phase of official Anglican–Roman Catholic dialogue.

A New Phase of arcic

In 2009, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion committed themselves to a third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (arcic III). Throughout 2010, frequent contact was maintained with the Anglican Communion Office as preparations advanced. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity prepared a list of Catholic theologians to serve on the commission, which has subsequently been approved, and it is expected that the first meeting of the new phase of dialogue will take place at the Monastery of Bose in May 2011. The topics chosen for the dialogue are the “Church as Communion, local and universal” and “How, in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching”. These related themes go to the heart of the difficult internal problems which currently face Anglicanism, and at the same time allow the new phase of dialogue to build upon what was achieved in the first two phases of arcic, in its three documents on Authority in the Church, and in particular in its treatment of the subject of Primacy. arcic III will also gather together the documents produced by arcic ii for formal presentation to the Catholic Church.

A report on the state of arcic formed one of the main items at the annual Informal Talks with the Anglican Communion, which took place in November. This year the Talks also concentrated on a wide range of issues affecting relations between the Anglican Communion and Catholic Church. Discussion included the prospect of the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England, the consequences of the episcopal ordinations of active homosexuals in the Episcopalian Church in the United States, and the Anglican Covenant. The Informal Talks took place in a friendly atmosphere which encouraged a frank exchange of views about developments within the Anglican Communion and the prospects for future official dialogues. The meeting was chaired by the Rev. Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office for the Anglican side, and was also addressed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who made a helpful presentation on the Ordinariates.

Other Contacts

Along with formal dialogues, the Pontifical Council maintains regular contact with the Anglican Communion through a constant exchange of information with staff at Lambeth Palace and at the Anglican Communion Office in London. This enables the Pontifical Council to monitor and understand the implications of events. The preparations for arcic III and the development of the Anglican Covenant have been followed in this way.

Visits to Rome by important members of the Anglican Communion help to strengthen bonds and to inform the Pontifical Council of the world-wide Anglican scene. Early in the year, a large group of Anglicans attending a leadership course at the Anglican Centre visited the offices of the Pontifical Council to discuss the work of the Council and the ecumenical situation in general. With the collaboration of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt was welcomed in Rome as fraternal delegate to the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, while later in the year Bishop Geoffrey Rowell, Anglican Bishop of Europe, visited the Pontifical Council, held talks with Cardinal Koch, and was later received in Audience by the Holy Father.

The Anglican Centre in Rome continues to play a significant role in relations with the Anglican Communion. Regular meetings are held with its director, the Rev. Canon David Richardson, while its large library is a useful resource for deepening Anglican-Catholic relations. It also provides a base where Anglicans may host meetings and receptions for their guests; it was used in this way during the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he met senior Curial officials, including Cardinal William Levada and Cardinal Peter Turkson.

The World Methodist Council

Catholic-Methodist relations continue to be positive and useful, and were maintained in 2010 by means of the ongoing International Catholic-Methodist Commission, and through conversations, contacts and official delegations.

The International Catholic-Methodist Joint Commission

The International Catholic-Methodist Joint Commission meets in cycles of five years, a pattern that has been consistent over 40 years of dialogue. The meeting in November 2010 was the fifth and final year of the current cycle, under the co-presidency of Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville, Australia, and Rev. Geoffrey Wainwright. It was held at Fulda, in Germany, and was attended by Mons. Mark Langham from the Pontifical Council.

The Commission had one major item to consider, which had been developed in previous meetings, namely the study entitled Encountering Christ the Saviour: Church and Sacraments , which focuses on the Paschal Mystery in relation to the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Holy Orders. This Paschal emphasis will, it is hoped, provide new insights in addressing areas of former disagreement, and will strengthen the Methodist understanding of the sacramental nature of ministry. Members of the Commission have been drafting the document in pairs, and were at the stage of a final consideration of the text. It is intended that it should be complete in time for the meeting of the World Methodist Council at Durban in 2011. It is hoped to present the study simultaneously to the Catholic Church, through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Together with this document, the Commission will present another document entitled Together in Holiness: Forty Years of Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue , synthesising the Methodist-Catholic dialogues since their beginning soon after Vatican ii. This major text, developed in previous years by members of the Commission, is in many ways parallel to the synthesis document Harvesting the Fruits of Cardinal Kasper. It brings together fruits of the documents produced after each five-year cycle, to demonstrate significant convergences and agreements but also to raise open questions that will have to be considered in future. Through this synthesis, it is hoped to introduce the dialogue to a new generation of Christians, perhaps unaware of the achievements of the last decades.

Other Contacts

With the Methodists, as with other dialogue partners, informal contacts are also most important, and so regular meetings are held with Rev. Trevor Hoggard, Rector of the Methodist Church at Ponte Sant’ Angelo, and minister responsible for the relations between the European Methodism and the Pontifical Council. Mons. Langham addressed a group of Methodist students from Garrett Methodist Seminary in Canada who visited the Pontifical Council on 22 January. On 16 June 2010, Mons. Langham, Mons. Türk and P. Fairbanks attended a celebration to mark the birthday of John Wesley at the Methodist Church in Rome. On 6 July, Dr Joyce Torres PlaHa, the new Secretary General of the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean (ciemal) visited the offices of the Pontifical Council, and held talks on relations with the Catholic Church in South America. On 13 September, the Pontifical Council welcomed Prof. Robert Gribben, President of the United Faculty of Theology in the University of Melbourne.

Future Prospects

It is right to acknowledge that ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church the Anglican and Methodist communions are at a difficult stage, where the actions of our partners seem to call into question previous agreements or render prospects of ecumenical progress problematic. Nevertheless, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is positive and committed to the ecumenical progress. Not only are personal relations extremely warm — following the process of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (iarccum), Catholic and Anglican bishops in several countries now meet together regularly — but there is a notable spirit of cooperation at many levels. These close bonds were warmly acknowledged by Pope Benedict in his address at Westminster Abbey: “We know that the friendships we have forged, the dialogue which we have begun and the hope which guides us will provide strength and direction as we persevere on our common journey”. The Holy Father then underlined the practical importance of this ecumenical fellowship, and the task which faces all Christians: “In a society which has become increasingly indifferent or even hostile to the Christian message, we are all the more compelled to give a joyful and convincing account of the hope that is within us ( cf . 1 Pet 3:15), and to present the Risen Lord as the response to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our time”.




St. Peter’s Square

April 22, 2019