Archbishop of Canterbury Appeal on the Eucharist

11 May 1998 • Persistent link:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd George Carey, has issued a highly personal plea for the lift of the Roman Catholic ban on intercommunion.

The Archbishop, who is the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, with 70 million members worldwide, used the opportunity of a sermon in Luxembourg’s Roman Catholic Cathedral on 26 April to highlight “the distressing situation of eucharistic separation”. He said that the Millennium provided an opportunity to deepen the bonds of faith and fellowship between the two Churches.

His appeal brought a rapid response from Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, who spoke of the “need to explore with our ecumenical partners” the nature of the sacrament and the theology of the Church.

Archbishop Carey said on 26 April: “In my [Anglican] tradition we regularly invite those who are baptised and full members of other Christian Churches to receive eucharistic hospitality on occasions as we receive it from them. We have found this to be a source of great fellowship and joy – a visible sign and foretaste of the unity to which we are called.

“It is also a reminder that the Eucharist does not belong to us, we do not own it; rather it is a gracious gift from God.”

The Archbishop acknowledged that the extension of “Eucharistic hospitality” was not normally the practice of the Roman Catholic Church, and said that any changes would be on the basis of doctrinal agreement between the two Churches. After Dr Carey made his appeal, Cardinal Hume said in a statement to the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London: “Catholic faith in the Eucharist and Catholic faith in Church are two essential dimensions of the one and same Mystery and Faith. We need to explore with our ecumenical partners not only to see if we have the same belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but also whether we can come to an agreement concerning the theology of the Church. The two must go together.”

A spokesman for the cardinal said: “The statement does not change the goalposts, but restates the essential task of ecumenism which the question of eucharistic hospitality raises.”