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Archbishop of Canterbury criticises Rome for springing this announcement on him

LONDON: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises Rome for springing this announcement on him

By Damian Thompson
The Telegraph
October 20, 2009

The Vatican has announced today that PopeBenedict XVI has approved an 'Apostolic Constitution' (a formal papal decree) which will make some provision for groups of Anglicans (whether strictly members of continuing Anglican bodies or currently members of the Communion) who wish to be received into communion with the See of Rome in such a way that they can retain aspects of Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition.

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage, and we await the text of the Apostolic Constitution itself and its code of practice in the coming weeks. But I thought I should let you know the main points of the response I am making in our local English context – in full consultation with Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales - in the hope of avoiding any confusion or misrepresentation.


LONDON: Vatican moves to poach traditional Anglicans
Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, admitted he had been caught unawares

By Ruth Gledhill and Richard Owen
Times Online
October 20, 2009

The Roman Catholic Church today moved to poach thousands of traditional Anglicans who are dismayed by growing acceptance of gays and women priests and bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams admitted that he had been caught out after Pope Benedict XVI announced a new "Apostolic Constitution" to provide a legal framework for the many thousands of Anglicans and former Anglicans who wish "to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church".

The announcement paves the way for thousands of Anglicans worldwide to join the Roman Catholic church while maintaining elements of their own spiritual heritage.

Although Dr Williams knew that talks had been taking place in Rome, he was unaware until two weeks ago of the radical nature of the proposals being drawn up by Rome.

Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who hosted a simultaneous press conference in Rome this morning, visited London only last weekend to inform Dr Williams and the English Catholic bishops of what was being proposed.

Normally, talks between the two churches are conducted under the auspices of the Holy See's Council for Christian Unity and it is significant that they have been left out of the new plans.

The constitution, a canonical structure, will provide "personal ordinariates" that will allow Anglicans to "set up church" within the Catholic church while retaining elements of their former ecclesiastical identity, such as Anglican liturgies and vestments.

Traditionalists, including up to six Church of England bishops, had visited and pleaded with Rome to provide some sort of structure inside the Catholic Church for their wing of the Church of England because of liberal moves towards women bishops and gay ordinations.

One aspect of the announcement by Rome is that it clears the way for women bishops in the Church of England.

The General Synod and Parliament are unlikely to approve a legal structure to "protect" Anglo-Catholics from being "tainted" by the hands of a woman, if Rome is showing them an open door.

By virtue of his presence at the press conference in London by the Catholic Church, Dr Williams, who had been enjoying a half-term holiday with his family, was in effect giving his blessing to the new plans.

Dr Williams, who will visit Rome in November, said that the announcement did not disrupt "business as usual" in relations between the two churches.

He said that it would be a "serious mistake" to view the development as a response to the difficulties within the Anglican Communion.

It was aimed at people who had reached a "conscientious conviction that visible unity with the Holy See was now what God was calling them to", he said.

"It is not a secret that in this country the ordination of women as bishops is one of those test issues," he added.

The proposals will also regularise the place of former Anglicans in the US who already worship under the auspices of the US Catholic bishops by bringing them also into the new, central canonical structure of the Apostolic Constitution.

Keith Porteus-Wood, of the National Secular Society, said: "This is a mortal blow to Anglicanism which will inevitably lead to disestablishment as the Church shrinks yet further and become increasingly irrelevant. Rowan Williams has failed dismally in his ambitions to avoid schism. His refusal to take a principled moral stand against bigotry has left his Church in tatters. Time for him to go."

Cardinal Levada said that the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution would provide "a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon" that would "balance in the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and on the other hand the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church."

Asked if the move posed a threat to ecumenism, he replied: "Certainly not".

He said: "The unity of the Church does nor require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows." He said however that it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment on whether the move would weaken the Anglican church.

He added: "It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith."

Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, former under-secretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that although moves to mend the split between Anglicanism and Rome had begun nearly fifty years ago, "our prayers for unity are being answered in ways we did not anticipate, and the Holy See cannot not respond to this movement of the Holy Spirit for those who wish communion and whose tradition is to be valued."

There were signs of haste at the Vatican press conference, which was only announced on Monday evening instead of several days ahead, as is the usual practice. Cardinal Levada apologised for not wearing full cardinal's vestments but said that he had only returned to Rome at midnight after briefing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales yesterday.


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