Bishops say church has failed children, women and Indigenous peoples

Canon (lay) Doreen Duncan says Donald Trump's victory was made more difficult for her by the fact that so many of his supporters identified as Christians. Photo: André Forget
Canon (lay) Doreen Duncan says Donald Trump's victory was made more difficult for her by the fact that so many of his supporters identified as Christians. Photo: André Forget
Published November 25, 2016

A group of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops have acknowledged both churches’ failure to protect children, women and indigenous peoples.

In a statement issued by the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (Iarccum) today (Friday) following the group’s historic meeting in Canterbury and Rome last month, they call on the church to repent and seek justice for victims. They say that, “at the foot of the Cross we, as bishops, have reflected on an ‘ecumenism of humiliation’. We lament our failures and share the brokenness of our church communities.”

They continue: “We failed to protect vulnerable people: children from sexual abuse, women from violence, and indigenous peoples from exploitation.

“In this communion of shame, we confess that our own feeble witness to God’s call to life in community has contributed to the isolation of individuals and families, and even to that secularisation which removes God from the public space. We, as bishops, are called to lead the church in repentance and to seek justice for the abused.”

The bishops have called their statement “an appeal from the Iarccum bishops to the bishops and the people of the Anglican and Catholic communities.”

They say: “we have discovered that as Christ draws us closer to the full visible unity which is his will, we are led to the foot of the Cross, where we stand together with the One who bears the pain of broken humanity. This too is a deep experience of communion which some have described as a communion of poverty, of persecution, even of blood.

“During these days together, we have shared testimonies from both communities, struggling in dire circumstances in our respective regions. These included environmental degradation; mass migration; war and persecution resulting in refugees, displaced populations, and post-conflict trauma; societal decisions eroding the dignity of human life from beginning until natural end; human trafficking and modern slavery. This ‘ecumenism of the Cross’ unites us as we bear together the plight of our people who face the challenges of our troubled world.

“An essential dimension of our ‘communion of the Cross’ is standing with the poor, and reaching out together to reveal Christ’s presence among those at the margins of our world. South Sudan, Pakistan and other places of conflict were very much in our prayers.

“In the Middle East – the place where the Word became flesh – the very life and witness of Christian communities is threatened. The changes in our world since the inauguration of Iarccum in 2001 call for deeper commitment to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, where the meaning of the Cross is a concrete reality for millions, in what is now an age of terror and destruction.”

During their meeting, 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops were “sent out” for joint mission by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury from the very place from where Pope Gregory sent Saint Augustine to be the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

“As Anglicans and Roman Catholics have done in their local contexts throughout the world, in our sharing with one other in conversation and in prayer, we found ourselves living the real but incomplete communion that exists between our churches”, the bishops said. “The unity we seek is a unity which, to a significant degree, we were already experiencing. . .

“Gathering for Vespers at the Church of San Gregorio in Rome, from which Pope Gregory sent Augustine of Canterbury to England at the end of the 6th century, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin commissioned us to be artisans of healing and reconciliation in the power of the Gospel, and to go forth as pairs of pilgrims, returning to our home nations and regions to encourage common prayer, mission and witness. . .

“Mindful that Jesus sent his disciples forth in pairs, we as pairs of bishops . . . go forth now motivated by our commission to continue our pilgrimage to unity and mission, developing plans of action, spreading the vision we have shared among our episcopal counterparts, our clergy, and our lay faithful.

“We go forward together summoned to extend the mercy and peace of God to a world in need.”

  • Click here for the full text of the Iarccum bishops’ statement (pdf)



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