Gazzada in England

9 September 1967 • Persistent link:

from The Tablet archive:

The end of the road is nowhere near being in sight yet, but solid progress is being made: this was the impression given by the communiqué and press conference that followed last week’s second meeting of the Anglican-Catholic joint preparatory commission, held at Huntercombe Manor, Taplow, Berks, from August 30th to September 3rd.

Indeed, the frequency of the commission’s meetings seems to be increasing: while the first meeting was held seven and a half months ago at Gazzada in northern Italy, it is hoped to hold the third meeting towards the end of December, at the most only four months hence. Where it will be held is not yet certain: it has to be some where near a large international airport, but the likelihood of fog at that time of year rules out London airport, and therefore England.

At the press conference on Monday little emerged in the way of concrete details in addition to the communiqué, which was unanimously agreed by the twenty-five participants on Sunday night: it was more a question of elucidation and explanation.

But the possibility of the Catholic Church taking another look at the validity of Anglican orders—declared invalid by Leo XIII’s bull Apostolicae curae in 1896—was mentioned by Bishop Helmsing of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Catholic co-chairman of the commission. This, he said, was a question that had to be faced in the perspectives of the belief of both Churches as it existed at the present time, in contrast to the historical and juridical perspectives in which it had been seen in the past.

“There is a change in climate in understanding of the Eucharist and of the role of the minister of the Eucharist,” he said. “There is a hope that it may be possible to reopen this question in a perspective somewhat different than that obtaining in the past.”

Diversity in unity was one of the themes of the discussion, and on this Bishop Willebrands, secretary of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, elucidated: “It was clear that diversity in unity was necessary for two reasons, one vertical, from the Holy Spirit, and the other horizontal, from the incarnation of the word of God in such diverse circumstances. Hence diversity in theological expression, in liturgical forms, and in the spiritual life may be good and necessary for the universal Church.”

The Bishop of Ripon, Dr. J. R. H. Moorman, the Anglican co-chairman, added that the Catholics were worried by the extent of diversity within the Anglican communion, while the Anglicans were aware that there was much more diversity within the Roman Church than existed five years ago. On the allied topic of the Marian dogmas he said earlier: “I do not think very much progress was made. The Anglicans are anxious to know the minimum that is required of those in communion with Rome.”

The communiqué ends by mentioning three practical recommendations, on the common use of churches, on developing common texts of prayers and formulae used by both Churches (such as the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds and the Gloria), and on collaboration in education for the priesthood and in theological scholarship. These, which seem to have been mentioned partly in order to bring them out into the open as a way of encouraging the local Church authorities on both sides to implement them, led to the question of the exchange of pulpits being raised at the press conference.

This, which was governed by the recent Directory on Ecumenism, was something on which no general rules could be laid down. “It depends on the local bishops and the local circumstances,” explained Bishop Helmsing. In areas where the past polemical atmosphere persisted, an immediate change leading to an exchange of pulpits would be ” shocking” to people on both sides; but in areas where this polemical atmosphere did not exist exchanges of this nature were quite possible. “We can’t expect to destroy the tensions of four hundred years in a month or two,” the bishop said. “It takes time.” Bishop Willebrands concurred: “We should not force an evolution,” he said. However, Eucharistic services were not a suitable setting for an exchange of pulpits owing to the integral part played by the homily in the Eucharistic Liturgy.

A good example of sharing in worship was set by the twenty-five members of the commission. “We had prayer services based on the Word of God each evening with full mutual participation,” said Bishop Helmsing. “We attended each other’s Eucharist and joined in the common prayers.”

But naturally there was no intercommunion. That must await the achievement of unity.