Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 30, 2009
Pope, Anglican leader continue their pursuit of Church unity
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - While some pundits have sounded the death knell for ecumenical relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams pledged to move forward.
The pope and archbishop met privately here for about 20 minutes Nov. 21.
A Vatican statement said the two leaders reiterated "the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans."
And, it said, they discussed the work their representatives were to begin Nov. 23 preparing for a third round of study by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the body for official theological dialogue.
The statement said the two leaders discussed "recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion."
That is, no doubt, a reference to Pope Benedict's decision to establish "personal ordinariates" - structures similar to dioceses - for Anglicans who want to enter full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining some of their Anglican heritage.
The announcement appeared to cause some tension, mainly because Williams was not informed about the papal provision until shortly before it was announced publicly in late October.
Despite the Vatican's clear statements that the move was a pastoral response to people who contacted the Vatican seeking to become Catholic, many headlines treated it as the Vatican taking unfair advantage of tensions within the Anglican Communion over the ordination of women as priests and bishops.
In an interview Nov. 21 with Vatican Radio, Williams said he told the pope that the way the announcement was handled "put us in an awkward position."
But Williams also said media presentations of the announcement as a "dawn raid on the Anglican Communion" were simply wrong.
"People become Roman Catholics because they want to become Roman Catholics, because their consciences are formed in a certain way and they believe this is the will of God for them. And I wish them every blessing in that," the archbishop said.
"But I don't think it's a question of the Roman Catholic Church as it were trying to attract by advertising or by special offers," he said. For that reason, "I don't particularly worry about it."
VATICAN ATTITUDE UNCHANGED
Asked for the pope's reaction, Williams said, "the main message was that the constitution did not represent any change in the Vatican's attitude toward the Anglican Communion as such."
As for the issue of ordaining openly gay men and blessing gay marriages, which a few Anglican provinces have done, Williams told Vatican Radio the official policy of the Anglican Communion remains opposed to such practices.
At the same time, he said, the issue must be dealt with in a way that shows how much "we value and appreciate the contribution made already by many faithful gay and lesbian people who serve as clergy and laity in the Church."
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