Private Meeting between Benedict XVI and the Anglican Primate

Source: FSSPX News

On November 21, a short communiqué released by the Holy See, at the end of the private audience granted by Benedict XVI to the primate of the Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams, stated that Catholics and Anglicans were decided “to continue and to consolidate their ecumenical relationship. 

The meeting took place a month after the announcement of the Roman decision to receive groups of Anglicans which had broken away from their communities. The communiqué recalled: “how, over the coming days, the commission entrusted with preparing the third phase of international theological dialogue between the parties (ARCIC) was due to meet.”

The primate of the Anglican Communion, who had come to Rome to take part in a symposium organized in honor of Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willlebrands (1909-2006), a pioneer of conciliar ecumenism, the primate of the Anglican Communion had said, on November 19, that the “ecumenical glass” between Catholics and Anglicans seemed “half full” to him. He made great reservations concerning the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Cœtibus allowing Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church, while keeping some of their traditions and practices.

Nevertheless, Rowan Williams had considered the pontifical document as “a clever response to the needs of some,” but it did not constitute any step forward from an ecclesiological viewpoint. He also declared that he did not believe that the initiative of the Vatican was going to affect the relationships between the two Churches. On the other hand, according to the BBC, Rowan Williams stated that he would like to establish a new relationship with Rome, emphasizing the common fundamental beliefs rather than secondary “negative” points such as the access of women to the priesthood and the episcopacy.

On the eve of the Primate of the Anglican Communion’s to the Vatican, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wanted to recall the “indisputably positive development of relationships between Anglicans and Catholics after the Council.” For the German prelate, this visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican “proves that there has been no rupture, and gives a new start to the common desire to talk together at this important historical juncture.” According to him, the pope’s offer to the Anglicans is done “in perfect conformity with the conciliar Decree Unitatis Redintegratio.”

This document, he recalled, clearly dissociated “the conversion of mere individuals or of groups of persons” from “ecumenism as dialog with the other Churches in view of attaining full communion.” “I say it again; there is no new ecumenism, nor any end of the old [ecumenism],” Cardinal Kasper drummed out, who saw in this gesture of opening to the Anglicans as it were the “fruit of the ecumenical dialogs of the past decades,” but also “a strong urge” to continue the dialog with the Anglican Communion. In his address given at the Gregorian University, in the presence of Rowan Williams, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also wished for the greatest “transparency,” as much in individual or collective conversion as in the ecumenical dialog.

But he also called for “tactfulness” and mutual esteem” to avoid “causing stupid tensions” between the “ecumenical partners.” “2010 will be the year of ecumenism,” Cardinal Kasper declared in the same discourse mentioning the symposium with the Protestant Denominations in Rome from February 8 to 10, 2010. In October 2009, he had already announced the meeting on the occasion of the presentation of a book published by his discastery and entitled: Harvesting the Fruits – Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue. Other events will follow, among them the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the centennial of the Edinburgh Conference (1910), and also the plenary Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Stuttgart (Germany). In the eyes of the German prelate, all these manifestations are so many “proofs” that “ecumenism is not a thing of the past,” but that Christians are living “a new beginning.”