Pope Benedict XVI (right) and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, talk after signing a common declaration committing their two churches to a goal of “full visible communion in the truth of Christ.” It was the 40th anniversary of a meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI.
Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, prayed together and remained committed to strengthening Roman Catholic-Anglican ties but they acknowledged division over key issues, including the ordination of women priests and the role of homosexual clergy.
The Pope and the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion met at the Vatican on Nov. 23 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1966 meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI.
Pope Benedict did not identify in detail areas of difficulty between the two churches, but he did speak of the “the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the communion itself.”
In a speech the pontiff told Archbishop Williams: “Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations with the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic church.
“We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations,” said the Pope.
Archbishop Williams praised the Pope’s ecumenical commitment: “I have been heartened by the way in which from the very beginning of your ministry as Bishop of Rome, you have stressed the importance of ecumenism in your own ministry … I say this, conscious that the path to unity is not an easy one, and that disputes about how we apply the Gospel to the challenges thrown up by modern society can often obscure or even threaten the achievements of dialogue, common witness and service. In the modern world, no part of the Christian family acts without profound impact on our ecumenical partners; only a firm foundation of friendship in Christ will enable us to be honest in speaking to one another about those difficulties.”
The “recent developments” referred to by the Pope are believed to hinge on the decision of some Anglican churches to accept women as priests. It also refers to the consecration in the Episcopal Church of a gay bishop.