Thursday 31 January 2013

Pontifical Council for Unity: Relations with the Anglican Communion in 2012, by Mgr Mark Langham

From the Osservatore Romano, in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18-25 January 2012 Internal Developments This year has witnessed a continuing climate of dissent within the Anglican Communion, with ethical questions concerning the episcopal ordination of active homosexuals creating serious tensions between different Anglican provinces, and presenting a major problem for ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, the move in the Church of England towards ordaining women bishops, while not a new development on the scale of the worldwide Anglican communion, has further entrenched an intractable church-dividing issue. Nevertheless, there are also indications that the co-operation between Anglicans and Catholics continues at many levels, and two successful visits to Rome by the Archbishop of Canterbury underlined the close relations between the two communions. Worldwide Anglicanism continues to be dominated by damaging ethical disagreements between provinces. In North America, conservative dioceses continue to secede from The Episcopalian Church, while there appear to be serious problems over the progress of the Anglican Communion Covenant, with the Church of England itself voting not to accept it. As ever, Anglicanism in general, and the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular, face the dilemma of maintaining some sense of identity in an increasingly diverse worldwide Communion, while remaining deeply averse to any centralised authority. The Anglican Covenant, to which the Archbishop of Canterbury has given his personal support, his been widely criticised as too authoritarian and "un-Anglican". At the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Auckland, New Zealand, in October, much time was given to the Covenant, and it was clear that the structures of doctrinal limitation it implies are unpopular with the majority of Provinces. At present, it is hard to see that the Covenant will gain communion-wide approval, and since adherence to it was to determine participation in ecumenical dialogues, the consequences for Anglican – Catholic relations remain unclear. In the Church of England, meanwhile, the failure of General Synod to pass legislation permitting the ordination of women to the Episcopacy has created a crisis, with the Government seeming to threaten at least indirect pressure to reverse the decision. It is important to note that this vote was not about women bishops per se: that development is inevitable, since the vast majority of English Anglicans support it. The vote was about providing a substantial framework for those Anglicans who cannot accept the measure; the proposal failed as not enough members of Synod felt that safeguards for opponents were secure, despite assurances from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is hard to see how the legislation, when it returns, can be adapted to encompass two essentially conflicting points of view. The ramifications for relations with the Catholic Church both locally, and more widely, are yet to be seen. ARCIC III and IARCCUM Despite these problems, the second meeting of the current phase of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) took place in May a positive and fruitful environment. The Commission, under the co-chairmanship of Roman Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon of Aotearoa-New Zealand, met in Hong Kong, as guests of the Anglican diocese, to continue its discussions on the themes ‘ The Church as Communion, local and universal’, and ‘How in communion the local and universal Church comes to discern right ethical teaching’. Both these topics are crucially relevant to the Anglican Communion at this time. During the meeting, it was decided to treat the ethical issue through "case studies", that is, to consider particular ethical issues where there is either agreement or disagreement between Catholics and Anglicans, and to investigate how those differing positions have been reached. It is hoped that this work will be of real value in local circumstances throughout the world where Anglicans and Catholics work together. The Commission met with the leadership of the Catholic and Anglican communities in Hong Kong, and held an evening of discussion and exchanging information with seminarians from both traditions. Members of the Commission were also introduced to the work of the Mission to Seamen, undertaken jointly by Anglicans and Catholics. At a further small planning meeting in November, the ARCIC work assignments in preparation for beginning work on an agreed statement, ahead of the third meeting of ARCIC III, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro in May 2013. The International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), which was developed following a successful joint meeting of Anglican and Catholic Bishops in 2000, has been revived. Its scope is to publicize the work of ARCIC and promote reception of its work. The co-chairmen, Anglican Bishop David Hamid and Catholic Bishop Donald Bolen, have sent all known local Anglican-Catholic dialogues a questionnaire, to ascertain what is being done about ecumenical relations at present, and to share good practice. These results will be collated early in 2013, and local bishops identified in each region who can help promote the ecumenical achievements of ARCIC. Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, announced earlier in 2012 that he would retire at the close of the year, in order to return to a life in academia. This added a poignancy to his two visits to Rome, and in particular his second journey became an opportunity to thank him for his leadership of the Anglican Communion and to bid him farewell. In March, Dr Williams was in Rome to take part in the millennium celebrations of the Camaldolese Order, whose basilica of San Gregorio al Celio has particular historic links with England. As part of these events, Dr Williams participated in Solemn Vespers celebrated by His Holiness Pope Benedict, and delivered an address. Following Vespers, together with the Prior of San Gregorio he prayed in the Chapel of St Gregory, in preparation for its dedication as a special place of pilgrimage for Anglican visitors to Rome. On the following day, he took part in a conference on monastic life, and later visited the San Egidio centre in Trastevere. The Archbishop also engaged in a dialogue with the seminarians of Venerable English College, answering their questions and discussing ecumenical relations with them. In October, Dr Rowan Williams returned to Rome to address the thirteenth ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the profound connection between contemplation and the task of evangelisation. His intervention was given in the presence of His Holiness Pope Benedict, and was followed by a period of dialogue with the Synod Fathers, following which the Archbishop held a short meeting with the Holy Father. On the following day, Dr Williams was present in St Peter’s Square for Holy Mass celebrated by His Holiness Pope Benedict to inaugurate the Year of Faith. During this final visit, the Archbishop met with many friends from the Curia to bid them farewells, including H.E. Cardinal Kurt Koch of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Upon the announcement in November that Right Reverend Justin Welby had been appointed to succeed Dr Rowan Williams, Cardinal Koch sent a letter of congratulations. He will attend the Archbishop’s enthronement next March, and it is hoped that the new Archbishop of Canterbury will make a first visit to Rome later in the year. Other contacts The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity welcomes many visitors through the year, who help to strengthen bonds of friendship and provide first-hand information about Anglican developments. Bishop Steven Croft of Sheffield, England, was present at the Synod of Bishops, as Anglican Fraternal Delegate, and made a brief intervention. He later reported his experience in very positive terms to the General Synod of the Church of England. Bishop Robert Ladds was present in Nettuno for a symposium on the role of the Virgin Mary in ecumenism, in which Monsignor Langham of the Pontifical Council participated. Monsignor Langham also addressed the Trustees of the Anglican Centre, present in Rome in November for their annual meeting. In June, there was a significant visit to Rome by the clergy and choir of Westminster Abbey, London, which recalled the presence of His Holiness Pope Benedict to the Abbey in 2010, and provided an example of collaboration that bears profound witness to the shared heritage of Anglicans and Catholics. The famed Abbey choir was granted the privilege of singing at the Papal Mass on the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, alongside the Sistine Choir, after which they were greeted by His Holiness. On the following day, a concert was given by both choirs in the Sistine Chapel, at which H.E. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke warmly of the English choral tradition. In the same month, Cardinal Koch traveled to England, where in Canterbury and London he met with members of the Church of England and wider Anglican communion representing different traditions within Anglicanism. This visit, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was an opportunity for the President of the Pontifical Council to experience something of the breadth and inclusivity of Anglicanism. In October, Monsignor Mark Langham of the Pontifical Council attended the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand, and made presentations on the work of the Pontifical Council and upon the importance of the Anglican Centre in Rome. He also took part in two workshops on Anglican – Catholic relations. In Rome, the Annual Informal Talks were between the Pontifical Council and representatives of the Worldwide Anglican Communion were held in November. This event offers a regular opportunity for a frank and fraternal exchange of news and opinions on a range of subjects, allowing information to be shared and questions to be answered. This year, the meeting was held at the offices of the Pontifical Council, was chaired by Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council and included other important representatives of the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. In December, a significant ecumenical milestone was reached when His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester visited the Venerable English College, and read a message from Her Majesty the Queen congratulating the College on the six hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its original foundation. The message from the second Queen Elizabeth was a small, but significant, indication of how far relations between Anglicans and Catholics have been transformed in recent decades. It was announced earlier in the year that Canon David Richardson, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative in Rome and Director of the Anglican Centre, would retire at Easter in 2013. In December, his replacement was named as Archbishop David Moxon of New Zealand, currently co-president of ARCIC. Cardinal Koch sent a message congratulating Archbishop Moxon, and expressing confidence that his considerable experience and gifts would suit him well for this important position which has such a significant role in relations between the Holy See and Canterbury, confirming the bonds of affection between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, and assisting our mutual understanding and work. FUTURE PROSPECTS Certain developments in the ecumenical scene that affect relations between the Catholic Church and Anglicanism are having a negative impact on ecumenical relations, calling into question earlier agreements made by the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission, and presenting serious departures from Catholic moral and doctrinal teaching. The internal controversies that these developments have occasioned have made it difficult for Catholics to discern a clear Anglican position on certain issues. The Pontifical Council had hoped that the Anglican Covenant might provide some coherency to Anglican ecclesiology, and limit doctrinal diversity, but its virtually certain rejection means that it is unlikely that help will come from that direction. The question of provision of women bishops in the Church of England has attracted great Press attention, and has been portrayed by many as a significant moment in the life of the Anglicanism. The Anglican Communion has, however, been appointing women bishops in other Provinces for twenty years, and ARCIC has for a long time had to take account of this reality. However, events at the General Synod in London are of major significance to the international dialogue, because of the special position of the Church of England within the communion. These event emphasizes the entrenchment of a development which is a serious obstacle to the progress of Christian unity. With Methodists also, there are increasing concerns about the extent to which local practices do not conform to agreed worldwide practices, and the gap between official Methodist discipline and practice is a matter of some concern to the Catholic Church. In this atmosphere, the positive spirit of the dialogue talks with both Anglicans and Methodists has been all the more remarkable. It is notable that, at the same time as ethical and doctrinal differences present seemingly intractable obstacles, fruitful dialogue on many other topics has still proved possible. ARCIC is preparing important work on the structures of ethical decision making, which it proposes to share with local Anglican – Catholic dialogues. There was particular delight in the Methodist – Catholic dialogue at the areas of common tradition that emerged from its discussion of holiness and sanctification. In addition, ecumenical relations have been cemented through visits to Rome. The Anglican choir of Westminster Abbey, present at the Holy Mass on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul, sang the Ave Verum Corpus of William Byrd. This piece of music was written by a Catholic for the small and persecuted Catholic minority. That it should be sung in Rome in the presence of the Holy Father by an Anglican choir, was a striking demonstration of how many historical obstacles have been overcome. Above all, the visits by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the important address made by him to the Synod of Bishops, showed a depth of spiritual kinship and co-operation that resonates strongly even in difficult ecumenical times. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, although from an Evangelical background, has cited strong Catholic influences upon him. The coming year will provide opportunities to come to know him, and to carry forward the essential work of striving for Christian unity.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Pope Benedict's Homily At Conclusion of Week of Prayer

VATICAN CITY, January 28, 2013, thanks to - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily during the ecumenical celebration of Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The occasion marked the end of the XLVI Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme: "What Does the Lord Require of Us" (Micah 6:6-8)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It is always a joy and a special grace to come together, around the tomb of the Apostle Paul, to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet with affection the Cardinals present, first of all Cardinal Harvey, Archpriest of this Basilica, and with him the Abbot and the community of monks who are hosting us. I greet Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and all the collaborators of this dicastery. I express my cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, to the Rev. Canon Richardson, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the representatives of the different Churches and ecclesial communities, gathered here this evening. In addition, I am particularly pleased to greet the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, to whom I wish a fruitful work for the plenary session that is taking place these days in Rome, as well as students of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, on a visit to Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox young people who study there. Lastly, I greet all those present gathered to pray for the unity of all the disciples of Christ.

This celebration is part of the Year of Faith, which began on 11 October, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Communion in the same faith is the basis for ecumenism. Unity is given by God as inseparable from faith; St. Paul expresses this effectively: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all"(Eph. 4:4-6). The baptismal profession of faith in God, the Father and Creator, who revealed himself in his Son Jesus Christ, pouring out the Spirit who gives life and holiness, already unites Christians. Without faith - which is primarily a gift of God, but also man's response - the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of "contract" to enter into out of a common interest. The Second Vatican Council reminds Christians that "the closer their union with the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, the more deeply and easily will they be able to grow in mutual brotherly love"(Decr. Unitatis redintegratio, 7). Doctrinal issues that still divide us must not be overlooked or minimized. They should rather be faced with courage, in a spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect. Dialogue, when it reflects the priority of faith, can open to the action of God with the firm conviction that we cannot build unity alone: it is the Holy Spirit who guides us toward full communion, who allows us to grasp the spiritual wealth present in the different Churches and ecclesial communities.

In today's society it seems that the Christian message affects personal and community life less and less, and this represents a challenge for all the Churches and ecclesial communities. Unity is in itself a privileged instrument, almost a prerequisite to announcing the faith in an ever more credible way to those who do not yet know the Saviour, or who, having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have almost forgotten this precious gift. The scandal of division that undermined missionary activity was the impulse that started the ecumenical movement that we know today. Full and visible communion among Christians is to be understood as a fundamental characteristic of an even clearer witness. While we are on the path towards full unity, it is necessary to pursue concrete cooperation among the disciples of Christ for the sake of passing on the faith to the contemporary world. Today there is a great need for reconciliation, dialogue and mutual understanding, not in a moralistic perspective, but in the name of Christian authenticity for a more incisive presence in the reality of our time.

True faith in God is inseparable from personal holiness, as well as from the pursuit of justice. In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends today, the theme offered for our meditation was, "What Does the Lord Requires of Us," inspired by the words of the prophet Micah, which we have heard (cf. 6:6-8). It was proposed by the Student Christian Movement in India, in collaboration with the All India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India, who also prepared the aids for reflection and prayer. To those who have collaborated, I want to express my deep gratitude and, with great affection, I assure you of my prayers for all the Christians of India, who sometimes are called to bear witness to their faith in difficult conditions. "Walking humbly with God" (cf. Micah 6:8) above all means walking in radical faith, like Abraham, trusting in God, or rather placing in Him all our hopes and aspirations, but it also means walking past the barriers, past hatred, racism and social and religious discrimination that divide and harm society as a whole. As St. Paul says, Christians must first provide a shining example in their search for reconciliation and communion in Christ, that overcomes every kind of division. In the Letter to the Galatians, the Apostle of the Gentiles says, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus"(3:27-28).

Our search for unity in truth and in love, then, must never lose sight of the perception that Christian unity is the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, and goes far beyond our own efforts. Therefore, spiritual ecumenism, especially prayer, is the heart of ecumenical commitment (cf. Decr. Unitatis redintegratio, 8). However, ecumenism will not bear lasting fruit unless it is accompanied by concrete gestures of conversion that move consciences and foster the healing of memories and relationships. As stated in the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, "there is no true ecumenism without interior conversion" (no. 7). Authentic conversion, as suggested by the prophet Micah and of which the Apostle Paul is a significant example, will bring us closer to God, to the center of our lives, in such a way as to draw us also closer to each other. This is a key element of our ecumenical commitment. The renewal of the inner life of our heart and our mind, which is reflected in everyday life, is crucial in any process of reconciliation and dialogue, making of ecumenism a mutual commitment to understanding, respect and love, "so that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Virgin Mary with confidence, the incomparable model of evangelization, so that the Church, "a sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of unity among all men" (Const. Lumen Gentium, 1), may announce with all frankness, even in our time, Christ the Savior. Amen.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Monday 21 January 2013

Disunity - the Fault Disfiguring the Countenance of the Church: Pope Benedict's Angelus Address in the Week of Prayer for Unity

VATICAN CITY, January 20, 2013 thanks to - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the liturgy proposes the Gospel passage about the wedding at Cana, an episode narrated by John, an eye witness of the event. This episode is part of this Sunday that immediately follows the Christmas season because, together with the visit of the Magi from the east and with Jesus' baptism, it forms the trilogy of the epiphany, that is, of the manifestation of Christ. The manifestation at the wedding at Cana is, in fact, "the first of the signs" (John 2:11), that is, the first miracle performed by Jesus, with which he publicly manifested his glory, awakening the faith of his disciples. Let us briefly recall what happened at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee. It happened that the wine had run out, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, pointed this out to her Son. He told her that his hour had not yet come; but then followed Mary's intervention and, six large stone jars being filled with water, he transformed the water into wine, an excellent wine, better than the wine that had been served earlier. With this "sign" Jesus revealed himself as the messianic bridegroom, come to establish the new and eternal Covenant with his people, according to the words of the prophets: "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5). And the wine is the symbol of this joy of love; but it also alludes to the blood that Jesus will pour out at the end to seal the nuptial pact with humanity.

The Church is the bride of Christ, who makes her holy and beautiful with his grace. Nevertheless, this bride, made up of human beings, is always in need of purification. And one of the gravest faults that disfigures the countenance of the Church is the injury to her visible unity, in particular the historical divisions that have separated Christians and that have not yet been overcome. Precisely at this time, from January 18 to 25, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed, a time that is always welcome to believers and to communities, which reawakens in everyone the desire and spiritual commitment to full communion. In this sense the prayer service that I was able to celebrate with thousands of young people from all over Europe and with the ecumenical community of Taizé in this piazza was very significant: it was a moment of grace in which we experienced the beauty of being one in Christ. I encourage everyone to pray together so that we can realize "what the Lord requires of us" (Micah 6:8), which is the theme of this year's Week; it was a theme proposed by some communities in India, which invites us to move decisively toward visible unity and to overcome, as brothers of Christ, every type of unjust discrimination. Next Friday at the conclusion of these days of prayer, I will preside at Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in the presence of representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

Dear friends, once more to the prayer for Christian unity I would like to add a prayer for peace so that, in the various conflicts now going on, the slaughter of civilians cease and all violence end, and the courage for dialogue and negotiation be found. For both of these intentions let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the mediatrix of grace.

Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. In these days, we are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Let us join our prayers to those of our brothers and sisters of all Churches and communities, that we may dedicate ourselves ever more earnestly to working towards our visible unity in Jesus Christ. God bless you and your loved ones!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]