Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Anglican-Catholic rapprochement comes with a long history
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - The ease with which groups of Anglicans can be welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church owes much to the unique history of the Anglican Communion.
Even before formal Anglican-Roman Catholic theological dialogue began working on ways to restore unity, the Second Vatican Council singled out Anglicans when talking about the churches born in the 16th century.
"Among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place," the council said in its Decree on Ecumenism.
The Vatican announced Oct. 20 that Pope Benedict would allow the formation of "personal ordinariates" to oversee the pastoral care of Anglicans who want to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Those Anglicans would be able to retain elements of their Anglican liturgy, tradition and spirituality.
While a new apostolic constitution will make the special concessions to former Anglicans, the liturgy celebrated within the personal ordinariates will be completely valid for all Catholics, said Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican's top doctrinal official.
However, he said, it would not make sense to welcome into the ordinariates "Catholics who have not come from the Anglican Church."
The idea is to preserve an Anglican patrimony and not "have it submerged by Catholics who know nothing about that Anglican patrimony," Levada said.
The Anglican Communion was born in England from the one Christian Church in the West headed by the pope.
The occasion for the split between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church was King Henry VIII's request to Rome that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon be annulled.
Pope Clement VII refused his request, so the king divorced her and declared himself head of the church in England.
The tension between the king and the pope took place while the Protestant Reformation was in full swing in Europe, dividing the Western church between those who recognized the authority of the pope as it was being exercised and those who did not.
In the newly independent Church of England, pastors and theologians adopted and contributed to some of the key aspects of the Protestant reform.
Those included an emphasis on the importance of the Bible, gradual use of the vernacular for liturgy and an emphasis on collegial decision-making.
But the Church of England also maintained many traditions held in common with the Catholic Church, especially in the liturgy and in Church structure.
Given their history, Anglicans often describe their Church as both Catholic and reformed.
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