2020 ~ Anglican-Roman Catholic news & opinion
In March it was announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global restrictions on travel and mass gatherings, the Lambeth Conference of 2020 would need to be rescheduled to the British summer of 2021. The Archbishop of Canterbury has now taken the important decision to reschedule the Lambeth Conference by a further year to the British summer of 2022. The conference will meet in 2022 in Canterbury. In the above filmed message to the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop has also announced that a wider programme will be developed before and after the event delivered virtually and through other meetings. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Archbishop of Canterbury and conference planning teams have been monitoring the situation, following relevant advice from public and global health authorities as it becomes available. They have also undertaken ongoing consultation with Primates, bishops and spouses – about the impact of COVID-19 in their countries. As with most large scale events and conferences of this nature – planning for events in such an unstable climate is difficult. As an international gathering (the Lambeth Conference invites bishops and spouses from over 165 countries) there are a significant number of uncertainties that make preparations for a 2021 meeting challenging. Whilst some lock down measures are starting to ease in some countries, social distancing measures, travel restrictions and quarantine measures could impede logistics and delegates’ travel planning for the foreseeable future. There are also the risks of a potential second wave of the virus and the reality that there are different phases in how the pandemic is spreading around the world – with no vaccine yet available.
On Monday 15th June, to mark the reopening of churches for individual prayer, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby prayed together in Westminster Cathedral and Abbey to mark this ‘moment of grace,’ as the Cardinal said in his homily for Corpus Christi. As the West Doors opened for the first time in nearly three months, they were greeted by Acting Administrator Fr Daniel Humphreys and Precentor Fr Andrew Gallagher. Proceeding into the sacred space, they knelt in socially-distant prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
Leaving the Cathedral, they walked across Victoria Street to Westminster Abbey. Arriving at the Abbey, they were greeted by the Dean of Westminster Dr David Hoyle, who took them to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor where they prayed in silence. Praying together was a visual reminder of the importance of prayer in churches and to emphasise the significance of this day.
Two of the country’s most senior church leaders visited Westminster Abbey today (Monday 15th June) when the Great West Door opened for the first time in three months since churches were closed for the Covid-19 lockdown.
Following Government guidance, the Abbey now has re-opened for private prayer. Two of the first visitors were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby; and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
They were welcomed to the Abbey by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, and taken to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor behind the High Altar where they all prayed in silence.
This week, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster wrote to both the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, expressing their opposition to any move by the Government of Israel to annex West Bank territory after 1 July 2020.
These letters followed the recent warning from the leaders of Churches in the Holy Land that the Government of Israel’s proposed annexation of West Bank territory would “bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process.”
In each letter they made clear they “unambiguously support the fundamental right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety but these prospects can only be secured through negotiation rather than annexation.” It is essential that both Israelis and Palestinians may live without violence or the threat of violence from each other or other armed groups, the Cardinal and Archbishop emphasised.
On 1st December 1960 the Right Reverend Geoffrey Fisher flew from Jerusalem to Rome and the following morning was received in private audience by Pope Saint John XXIII. It was the first visit of an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope since Archbishop Arundel in 1397. It was also the first visit of its kind, that of a head of a Christian communion to the Pope, with which the newly formed Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity was involved. The extent of that involvement is difficult to establish. The Secretariat’s first secretary, Mgr Willebrands, had met Archbishop Fisher at a meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in St Andrew’s, Scotland, in August 1959. Shortly afterwards Pope John communicated his willingness to meet the archbishop leading to speculation that Willebrands and Fisher came up with the plan at the WCC meeting. The use of WCC meetings to establish bilateral relations was frowned upon and so Fisher firmly denied that the visit was anything other than his idea and initiative.
Pope Francis recorded a video–message which was broadcast as part of the Pentecost service of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Justin Welby. The period between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost has traditionally been a time of prayer for Christian unity. Pentecost celebrates that moment when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, peoples of many different languages were united in hearing and accepting the first preaching of the resurrection of Jesus. In the southern hemisphere many countries keep these days as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and by promoting the Thy Kingdom Come movement, Archbishop Welby has made it a special time for Christians to unite in prayer for the evangelisation of the world. In the video–message Pope Francis prays that Christians “be more deeply united as witnesses of mercy for the human family” and warns, “We cannot ask others to be united if we ourselves take different paths.”
Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, like other dialogues, is finding new ways to continue its work. Its plenary session scheduled to meet in Northern Italy this May was transferred into an online meeting over four days (12-15 May). Commission members were able to exchange texts using email and discuss them via an online platform. The Commission is preparing for two further online meetings later in the year. Work for these meetings will be prepared by subgroups of the Commission also working through online meetings. In this way, it is hoped that ARCIC can maintain momentum in working towards an agreed statement on how, in communion, the local and universal church discerns right ethical teaching. A communiqué was issued at the conclusion of the meeting.
A new volume of the “Exchange of Gifts” series of the Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, LEV) has been issued. Entitled “Diversi e uniti. Comunico quindi sono” (“Diverse and United: I communicate, therefore I am”), the book draws together a selection of Pope Francis‘s writings in which he reflects on human relationships – the relationships that exist between people created in the image of God.
The text is introduced by Most Reverend Dr Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide. In his preface, Archbishop Welby writes, “My brother in Christ, Pope Francis, lays before us in his words the promise of divine love and mercy: the love that God has for His people and the invitation that God gives to each of us to be in a relationship with Him”.
The Department for Unity, Faith and Order in the Anglican Communion has at its core the search for deeper unity between Christians, be that within and between the churches of the Anglican Communion or between the Anglican Communion and other Christian churches and bodies.
Much of the work of Unity, Faith and Order (which goes by the extra-terrestrial acronym UFO) is taken up with encouraging Christians to talk together. Over the course of the last century much work has been done to break down mutual suspicion and division between churches by patient dialogue and the building up of relationships. This happens at the local level, where Christians find that when they come together to pray or get involved with mission and ministry that they have more in common than they first thought. It also happens at national and international level, when theologians from different churches and traditions talk together to come to agreement on issues that have previously divided them.
The work of the Task Group which was established by the Archbishop of Canterbury after the January 2016 Primates’ Meeting has been commended by the Primates. The Task Group has called for a Season of Repentance, focused around the fifth Sunday in Lent this year (29 March), and has prepared a common Anglican Communion eucharistic liturgy and papers on Anglican identity.
In their communiqué, released at the end of last week’s Primates’ Meeting, the Primates explained that the Task Group was established “to look at how we might walk together despite the complexities we face.”
They added: “at this meeting we affirmed our continued commitment to walk together; we received the work of the Task Group and commended it to the other Instruments of Communion – the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council.”
They also recommended that a new group be established “to continue the work of the Task Group to explore how we live and work together in the light of the Lambeth Conference.