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Fresh talks aim to repair damage to Catholic-Anglican relations

Fresh talks aim to repair damage to Catholic-Anglican relations

by Abigail Frymann
November 28, 2009

Efforts are under way to salvage Anglo-Catholic dialogue following Pope Benedict XVI's decree setting out new structures to receive groups of disaffected Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

Preliminary talks took place this week for a third round of talks by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic), which took place days after the head of the Anglican Communion, Dr Rowan Williams, said he had been "disappointed" that the Vatican had given him just two weeks' notice of its intention to set up personal ordinariates to accommodate Anglicans who become Catholics.

On 21 November he met Pope Benedict XVI for the first time since the plans became public. The official communiqué said Dr Williams' 20-minute private audience included "cordial discussions" and the men discussed "the challenges facing all Christian communities ... and the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges".

It went on to say that the Pope spoke to the archbishop about "recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion". They reiterated "the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans".

However, in Rome Dr Williams privately indicated he had been "bruised" by recent events and that there had been hurt, humili­ation and considerable anger in the Anglican Communion. The Tablet has learned that he expressed similar sentiments to the Pope. He told the BBC he was "disappointed" by Rome's handling of events, and to Vatican Radio he said the way the apostolic constitution had been received had put "many Anglicans, myself included ... in an awkward position".

Dr Williams was in Rome to give an address at the Gregorian University, in celebration of the centenary of the birth of the Dutch ecumenist Cardinal Johannes Willebrands (1909-2006). In his address on Thursday last week, he pointed to the depth of ecumenical agreement between the Anglican and Catholic Churches and questioned whether the issues that still divided them had the same weight.

As examples of the latter, he singled out "issues about authority in the Church, about primacy (especially the unique position of the Pope), and the relations between the local Churches and the universal Church in making decisions about matters like the ordination of women".

This week the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (PCPCU) arranged a preparatory meeting that formulated recommendations for a preliminary meeting the following day to prepare the ground for the start of Arcic III next year.

The Anglican delegation was led by Archbishop David Moxon of Waikato, New Zealand, while the Catholic side was headed by Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle.

Participants addressed the relationship between the local Church and the universal Church, and how the local Church discerns ethical teaching. This could have a bearing on the question of ordaining practising homosexuals, which the Episcopal Church in the US has done without the blessing of many other Anglican provinces. The PCPCU has had to shore up efforts to allay suspicion by some dialogue partners that the Vatican's goal has returned to evangelisation rather than ecumenism.

During his Rome visit, Dr Williams held meetings with PCPCU head, Cardinal Walter Kasper, 75, whose successor, it is rumoured, will be chosen by next spring, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. He presided at Vespers at the Oratory of St Francis Xavier, known as the Caravita church, in the centre of Rome.


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