Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome to talk church relations with Pope

By on November 19, 2009

LondonThe Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has arrived in Rome for a visit during which he will meet Pope Benedict XVI in their first meeting since the pontiff’s offer to allow Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church while retaining some of their own traditions.The Vatican on November 9 published an apostolic constitution setting down the arrangements for “personal ordinariates”, similar to dioceses, to be led by former Anglican bishops or other senior clergy who wish to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.The plans had been announced by the Vatican in October and Archbishop Williams said at the time in a letter to Anglican leaders around the world that he had been informed of the decision only at, “a very late stage.”The announcement had come from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and triggered speculation that there was dissatisfaction in Anglican circles about the way it was made and its timing.In a November 19 address at the Gregorian University in Rome, Archbishop Williams said that the announcement of the apostolic constitution “shows some marks of the recognition that diversity of ethos does not in itself compromise the unity of the Catholic Church”.However, the proposals do not include any formal recognition of existing ministries, “but remains at the level of spiritual and liturgical culture”, he noted. “As such, it is an imaginative pastoral response to the needs of some; but it does not break any fresh ecclesiological ground.” The visit of the leader of the 77-million worldwide Anglican Communion to Rome had been arranged some time before the Vatican made its announcement about accommodating disgruntled Anglicans.In an interview published on November 15 in the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, recalled how Archbishop Williams had phoned him in the middle of the night while he was at a meeting in Cyprus, to ask for an explanation about the proposals. “We talked about the significance of the new apostolic constitution, and I reassured him about the continuation of our direct talks, as indicated to us by the Second Vatican Council and as the Pope desires,” said Cardinal Kasper.The bishop of Southwark in London, Tom Butler, was reported on the Daily Telegraph Web site on November 16 as saying he believed the archbishop of Canterbury should express “disappointment” to the pontiff in Rome at the failure to give fuller advance notice of the papal plan.In October, about 500 Anglican clergy, including overseas members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, met in London to discuss whether to abandon Anglicanism and join the specially created “ordinariates,” but no decision was taken. Asked about the Anglican crisis in a BBC interview, the bishop of Ebbsfleet in England, Andrew Burnham said “I don’t think dioceses will go over, but parishes might, and will now face serious decisions. We have not asked or been given a deadline.”Bishop Burnham is one of three Church of England bishops who look after parishes that do not want women priests.In the United States, Bishop Christopher Epting, who deals with ecumenical issues for the Episcopal (Anglican) Church, described the Vatican offer to Anglicans as, “not necessarily very ecumenical.”

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