By Gudrun Schultz
LONDON, February 19, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Leaders in the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches are giving increasing consideration to the possibility of reuniting as one church under the leadership of the Pope, according to a London Times report today titled, Churches back plan to unite under Pope. However, Catholic World News responds today that the Catholic and Anglican bishops who co-chair a commission on the issue have issued a statement rejecting the Times analysis. According to CWN the prelates say the newspaper report “misrepresents” the intentions and “sensationalises” the conclusions of the statement on which the Times story is based and which, they also emphasise, “does not suggest an immediate move toward reunion”.
The 42-page first statement published by an international commission of Anglicans and Roman Catholics considering possible unification was obtained by The Times. The statement is under consideration by the Vatican, which will soon issue a formal response.
The report or statement, titled, Growing Together in Unity and Mission, was drafted by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, chaired by the Right Rev. David Beetge, an Anglican bishop from South Africa, and the Most Rev. John Bathersby, the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia. The commission began in 2000, initiated by the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, who was then head of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity. The goal of the commission was to seek ways to move forward towards unity between the churches, through “common life and mission.”
Leaders in the world-wide Anglican Communion are gathered in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this week in ongoing debate on the gathering crisis in the Church over homosexual ordination and the ordination of women to the priesthood. The divisive issues have led to warnings of a coming schism if a resolution is not reached soon. Led by the Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, strongly orthodox members of the Anglican Communion have said they will be forced to break ranks with elements in the Western Church that have adopted liberal doctrines opposed to the teaching of Christianity.
The divisions run deep in the Anglican Communion and there is a good possibility that the meetings will not be able to produce a reconciliation. Twice during the meetings seven of the archbishops opposing liberalism said they would not receive communion—a symbol of unity—together with the rest of the primates.
Of three central points of conflict between the Catholic and Anglican churches, two would be largely resolved in the event of a split in the Anglican Communion—the issue of homosexuality and of the ordination of women to the priesthood, since most of the Anglican communities that object to homosexual ordination are also faithful to the traditional prohibition against ordaining women.
The issue of the Pope’s universal leadership—the original source of the split between the Church of England and Rome—has remained one of the strongest sticking points in efforts to achieve Anglican reunion with the Catholic Church. That factor may be lessening, the report suggests, as some Anglicans begin to welcome the concept of a unified leadership under the guidance of the Bishop of Rome.
“The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.”
“We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.”
Both churches are urged to include public prayers for the issue in liturgical celebrations, with Anglican congregations asked to pray for the Pope and Catholics for the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The document recommends the denominations begin inviting one another to attend annual collegial and synodical gatherings and conferences to facilitate greater understanding between the churches.
Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, communicated support to the US Anglican Church at the time of the struggles following the ordination of homosexual Gene Robinson as a Bishop. As well, Rome accepted married priests from the Church of England into the Catholic priesthood following internal upheaval in the church over the decision to ordain women into the Anglican priesthood.
See coverage by The Times:
See related LifeSiteNews coverage:
Anglican Pope, Dual Magisterium – Anything to Save the Comm-Union
Archbishop of Canterbury Fears Coming Anglican Schism over Homosexuality