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Anglicans and Catholics discuss recognition of ministry

26 April 2016 • Permanent link: iarccum.org/?p=2586

Pope Paul VI places his episcopal ring on the finger of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey
Pope Paul VI places his episcopal ring on the finger of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey
By Philippa Hitchen, Vatican Radio

Catholic and Anglican theologians have been meeting together near Rome to discuss ordination rites within the two communions, as well as the significant ecumenical implications of Pope Francis‘ recent document ‘Amoris Laetitia’.

A meeting of the Malines Conversation group took place from April 17th to 22nd at Rocca di Papa, south of Rome, culminating in an ecumenical evensong celebrated by Archbishop Arthur Roche of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

A communique issued after the encounter said the theologians from seven different countries discussed “contemporary and historic ordination rites” and the developments that have taken place in both communions since Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders to be “null and void”.

To find out more about the conversation and about prospects for progress in the dialogue, Philippa Hitchen spoke to one of the Catholic participants, Fr Tony Currer of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Fr Tony notes the original Malines group started around 20 years after the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “to see how things could be taken forward”. He describes it as “a remarkable development” given the position of the Catholic Church which was not involved in the new ecumenical endeavours that were taking shape at the start of the 20th century.

In a similar way today, he says, Anglicans and Catholics are facing major obstacles which require “a lot of exploration in an atmosphere of friendship, honesty and frankness to see where progress might be made”.

Fr Tony recalls that the documents of the Second Vatican Council recognized those elements of the Church which exist beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church, adding that recent ecumenical efforts have been looking at the implications of that statement in the search for reciprocal recognition of ministry.

Theology needs to ‘catch up’ with gestures

While he notes that such recognition is still not fully possible, he cites many gestures to show a growing respect and recognition of the ministry exercised by Anglican bishops. In particular he recalls the gesture of Pope Paul VI, 50 years ago, of giving his own episcopal ring to the Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. Theology, Fr Tony says, “needs to catch up” and find the “theological underpinnings to these gestures”.

He adds “I think it’s true to say we don’t use the language of ‘null and void’ any more” as that’s “clearly not what is spoken by the gestures, generosity, and warmth which we see time and time again”.

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