Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and Pope John Paul II pose with aides in the newly dedicated Anglican Centre in Rome.
The ordination of women as priests remains the main obstacle to the union of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches but Bishop John Baycroft of Ottawa, the Anglican Communion’s newly appointed ambassador at the Vatican, says dialogue between the two churches must continue.
“We’ve got to keep talking about it, trying to understand why each of us do what we do, and that requires a lot of patience,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s not a thing that we can leave unresolved, because we both start from the same fundamental ecclesiology.”
The appointment of Bishop Baycroft as representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates of the Anglican Communion was announced March 1 by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. With the posting he also becomes director of the new Anglican Centre, dedicated and formally opened by the archbishop Feb. 12. The centre was founded 33 years ago with the blessing of both Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI during the wave of ecumenical enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council.
Bishop Baycroft is the first Canadian and the first bishop to represent the Anglican Communion at the Vatican. “It will be good to have a bishop of the Anglican Church in that role in Rome. With the year 2000 coming up, Rome is going to be a gathering place,” he said.
His chief task will be to maintain a good working relationship with the Vatican, especially the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and promote mutual understanding between the two communions.
Long involved in the ecumenical movement, Bishop Baycroft, 65, served for several years as the representative of the Anglican Church of Canada on ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. Along with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Halifax, he co-chairs the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada. “Over the years, I’ve enjoyed relating to Roman Catholics and I’ve gotten to the stage where, even when we disagree about something, I still feel like I’m part of the same family.”
One member of that family is Rev. Jean-Marie Tillard, a theologian from the Dominican College in Ottawa and a Roman Catholic member of ARCIC. The pair helped author an ARCIC report to be released May 12 dealing with papal authority, one of the other big obstacles to union between the two churches.
Fr. Tillard agreed women’s ordination remains the main stumbling block to church union. If it wasn’t there, he said, “a lot of doors would have been opened, especially after this (new ARCIC) document” on papal authority is released.
Art Babych is a freelance writer based on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
With files from Sue Becker Davidson