The Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican leaders were among ecumenical representatives greeted by Pope Benedict XVI during an April 25 audience at the Vatican.
Archbishop Williams attended the inauguration of the new pope at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, the first serving Archbishop of Canterbury to do so, at least since the Reformation. Archbishop Williams wore the ring presented to his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, by Pope Paul VI and a pectoral cross presented to him by Pope John Paul II.
Archbishop Williams greeted the Pope in German and presented him with a pectoral cross. Also with Archbishop Williams were Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Rev. Andrew Norman, the archbishop’s secretary for international and ecumenical affairs, and Rev. Jonathan Jennings, the archbishop’s press secretary. Representing the Episcopal Church in the United States were Presiding (national) Bishop Frank Griswold’s deputy for ecumenical relations, Bishop Christopher Epting, and the Paris-based bishop-in-charge of the convocation of American Churches in Europe, Pierre Whalon.
“We wish Pope Benedict XVI every blessing in the immense responsibilities he is about to assume on behalf of Roman Catholics round the world,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury shortly after the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was announced.
Archbishop Williams said the new pope “is a theologian of great stature, who has written some profound reflections on the nature of God and the church.”
Archbishop Andrew Hutch-ison, the Canadian primate, also welcomed the election of the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. “Our two churches have a long history of ecumenical co-operation for the proclamation of the Gospel and the development of humanity,” Archbishop Hutchison said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Bishop Epting said, “I have appreciated the signals Pope Benedict XVI has been sending with respect to ecumenical and interreligious affairs.” At their meeting, the Pope told Bishop Epting “that he prayed that specific steps toward unity could be taken soon. I would expect that to include, at least, the release of the Mary document in Seattle in the middle of May and a renewing of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission, both of which have been on hiatus lately.” (Please see related story).
He added: “When asked how I evaluate the Pope’s ‘new’ openness … I can only say two things: (1) being open to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue does not mean that one cannot be fully committed to one’s own tradition and its truth; (2) Benedict is now Pope, not head of the office of the Doctrine of the Faith. He will hear voices even he has never heard before and this can be a good thing. Our church remains open to dialogue and, as always, the ultimate goal of full communion. We approach the future with hope…and cautious optimism.”
With files from ENS and ACNS