2021 ~ Anglican-Roman Catholic news & opinion
Just before Christmas 1937, Monsignor Ronald Knox wrote a letter to the English Catholic periodical, The Tablet. Knox was the son of a Church of England bishop and had converted to Catholicism shortly after taking a brilliant First at the University of Oxford. He later became the first Catholic Chaplain to Oxford since the Reformation.
The letter arose from a remark that a friend of Knox’s had made, that she “wasn’t going to have her house turned upside down just because it was Christmas”. Thinking afterwards about what she had said, Knox wrote in his letter, “What is Christmas from start to finish but things being turned upside down?”
Even the days, continually darkening in the run–up Christmas, turn with the solstice and light begins to win again. Just when trees should be at their barest, lustrous evergreen branches are brought indoors and enhanced with lights and glitter. And just at a time (especially in the ancient world) when darkness was a cover for thieves in the night coming to burgle homes, in our modern recasting of the story, a genial old boy squeezes himself down the chimney and leaves gifts.
A group of Catholic and Anglican theologians has publicly called on the Vatican to review and overturn a papal document from 1896 that declared Anglican ordinations “absolutely null and utterly void.” “Where we once walked apart, we now walk together in friendship and love,” wrote members of the Malines Conversations Group after tracing the history of ecumenical agreements between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion and, especially, reviewing examples of collaboration and gestures of recognition.
The judgment made by Pope Leo XIII in his apostolic letter “Apostolicae Curae” in 1896 “does not accord with the reality into which the Spirit has led us now,” said members of the group, which is an informal Catholic-Anglican dialogue that began in 2013. Members of the group, who are not appointed to represent their churches but keep their respective ecumenical offices informed of their studies and discussions, presented their document Dec. 15 at Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. The 27-page document is titled, “Sorores in Spe — Sisters in Hope of the Resurrection: A Fresh Response to the Condemnation of Anglican Orders.”
The members of the Malines Conversations Group are honoured to invite you to the presentation of their new document:
SORORES IN SPE – Sisters in Hope of the Resurrection: A Fresh Response to the Condemnation of Anglican Orders (1896)
during an ecumenical seminar at the Angelicum’s Institute for Ecumenical Studies, Rome, Wednesday, 15 December 2021, 15:00-16:00, in presence at Aula 11 of the Angelicum or in direct streaming on Angelicum YouTube.
The legacy of the Malines Conversations — a series of private conversations on the unity of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, held in Belgium from 1921 to 1927 — is “alive and important” today, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams told an audience in York Minster this week.
The dialogue was the initiative of two friends, Charles Lindley Wood, the 2nd Viscount Halifax, the leading Anglo-Catholic layman of his day, and the Abbé Fernand Portal, and took place at the invitation of the Archbishop of Malines, Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier.
At a service on Monday to mark the centenary, Lord Williams noted their dismissal by some, including Hensley Henson, Bishop of Durham, who had described it as “predictably futile: a few unrepresentative Anglicans meet a few unrepresentative Roman Catholics. The Vatican, always courtly and polite, makes friendly noises and does absolutely nothing and the C of E likewise.”
In fact, Lord Williams said, the conversations had “kept open two very important windows. Within the Roman Catholic Church, it had allowed some vastly distinguished historical theologians … to pursue, without instantly being condemned for modernism, some urgent questions about the nature of the history of Christian thinking.” This had gone on to shape the Second Vatican Council.
The Anglican Communion Primates will meet online on Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 November, for consultation, discussion and prayer.
The Primates will meet via video conference. They will reflect on their ministries and discuss a range of issues for the church and for the world, including COVID-19; COP26; ministry to refugees; and the forthcoming Lambeth Conference.
The Primates’ Meeting is one of Anglicanism’s four “Instruments of Communion” and helps to bind together the “independent but inter-dependent” provinces.
The last Primates’ Meeting was also held virtually, in November 2020. But plans are in place for an in-person Primates’ Meeting in March 2022.
The leaders of the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican communions of churches have issued a rare joint statement on the need to protect creation. The message was released yesterday (Tuesday) during the Season of Creation, which runs from runs from 1 September – designated as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation – to 4 October – the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. It looks ahead to the UN climate change conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
The Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and [Anglican] Primate of All Ireland, has issued the following statement on the UK Government’s planned approach to the Legacy of the Troubles:
‘The announcement yesterday in the House of Commons of the path that the Government intends to follow in relation to Legacy issues in Northern Ireland will have created further heartbreak, frustration and anger for victims of the Troubles. The degree of suffering endured by victims over the years is not something that can be moved on from. It needs to be acknowledged in the full variety of its expression, and dealt with over the long term.
‘Failure to deal with Legacy has probably been the biggest political and societal failing since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The one principle which all involved have been agreed on is that a general amnesty would be a morally empty response. Regardless of the name it goes under, a general amnesty is what the Government of the United Kingdom is now planning to put in place.
The symposium “The Malines Conversations 100 Years On” was held at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Holy See on 11 June 2021, co–hosted by the Belgian and British Ambassadors to the Holy See, Patrick Renault and Sally Axworthy, respectively, to mark the 100th anniversary to be celebrated in Malines later in the year.
In his opening speech at the first Malines Conversations, on the 6th of December 1921, Cardinal Mercier shared that all of those present for the occasion, had agreed to seek the Lord and asked to make their souls live. He also invited those present to invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit. This moment of devotion needs to be valued as we celebrate the intentions of those who were willing to take the risks in uncharted territory they were called to enter. In my opinion, these conversations were built on the foundation of a spirit of faith.
On the invitation of Archbishop Ian Ernest, Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Cardinal Kurt Koch delivered the homily on 25 May at the weekly Tuesday Eucharist of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Archbishop Ernest presided at the liturgy and welcomed Cardinal Koch and other ecumenical guests. The homily reflected on the gospel of the day in which Jesus reassures Peter that no one leaves everything for the sake of the gospel without being repaid a hundred times over “houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and property”. Cardinal Koch noted that fathers were not included in the list, explaining that in the new community of Jesus there is no longer the human father. “Entering into this community of Jesus’ followers” the Cardinal explained, “means moving out of the civic community with the patriarch at the centre to be integrated into a new community, with God alone at the centre. Hence the community of disciples only lives in the spirit of Jesus when they don’t just proclaim God’s word but are themselves a place where God lives.” Noting the feast of Saint Bede, the Cardinal observed how Bede put Christ at the centre in his exegesis and in his history; it was due to Bede, after all, that we date human history from the birth of Jesus, God’s incarnation.
The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission was, for the second consecutive year, unable to meet in plenary due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Instead, the Commission met in two webinars on 10 and 12 May in which they considered the forthcoming study document of the Faith and Order Commission, Churches and Moral Discernment: Facilitating Dialogue to Build Koinonia. This document was presented jointly by Professor Myriam Wijlens, Co-chair of the study group and consultant of ARCIC, and Dr David Kirchhoffer, the principal drafter of the text. Members considered how the work, and specifically the “Tool” for Moral Discernment developed in the document, could be integrated with ARCIC’s own work.
The Commission is currently examining the question of how the Church in communion discerns right ethical teaching and, in continuity with its previous agreed statement, Walking Together on the Way, is using Receptive Ecumenism to examine this question. The Commission decided to meet for two further webinars later in the year in which it will return to previous case studies presented in its Jerusalem 2019 plenary in the light of the work of the Faith and Order study.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity mourns the death on 10 April 2021 of Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, President of the Council from 1989–2001.
The term of office of Cardinal Cassidy was deeply inspired by the Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (1995) of Pope John Paul II. Among many highlights, he promoted the resumption of the interrupted theological dialogue with the Orthodox Church, resulting in the publication of the Balamand Document (1993). He was also instrumental in the publication of the Common Christological Declaration (1994) between Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East, as well as the Christological declarations with the Armenian Catholicoi Karekin I (1996) and Aram I (1997). In 1999, on behalf of the Catholic Church, he signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Lutheran World Federation. He also oversaw the publication of the updated Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993) and of The Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of Those Engaged in Pastoral Work (1997).
Cardinal Cassidy accompanied Pope John Paul II on many apostolic visits, among them the 1999 visit to Romania in which he met with Patriarch Teoctist of the Romanian Orthodox Church, to Mount Sinai in 2000, and in 2001 a Jubilee Pilgrimage “in the footsteps of Saint Paul” including historical visits to Athens and Damascus. In the last years of his presidency, Cardinal Cassidy was highly committed to the ecumenical dimension of the events of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
One of the words which we associate most strongly with Easter is “hope”. It is a word that has become a bit debased in the way we use it nowadays. “I hope so,” very often means “I would like to think this or that might happen, but I doubt if it will.” Nothing could be further from the victorious and positive nature of our Easter hope.
Easter falls at a season of the year that is full of hopefulness. Longer evenings, Spring flowers, birdsong, and the sap rising in the trees. The whole creation (at least in the Northern hemisphere) is bursting with hope and the promise of new life. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brings that hope to a new level of reality. Far from the resurrection being simply a metaphor that religious people use for natural renewal, as some believe, it is the yearly renewal of the Earth in Spring which is an anticipation of the resurrection; a sign pointing to something greater than itself. A shadow in search of a substance. Transience moving towards permanence.
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) constitutes a major achievement in the search for Christian unity, effectively resolving one of the key theological conflicts of the Reformation. Initially an agreement signed by Lutherans and Catholics, it has since been joined and affirmed by three other Christian World Communions, namely the Methodist, Reformed churches and Anglicans.
In 2019, a first consultation between the five Communions on how the Joint Declaration affects their relationship was held in Notre Dame University (USA). The consultation gave rise to the Notre Dame Consultation Statement, a document affirming the substance of the Joint Declaration and recommending ways to deepen institutional relationships between the five Christian Communions. A Steering Committee composed of senior leadership of the five Christian Communions was set up to further promote the Joint Declaration in the life of the communions.
On Monday 15 February Pope Francis sent a video message (scroll down) for the “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” organized by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London on the occasion of the commemoration of the 21 Coptic martyrs executed on 15 February 2015.
The initiative gathered in a webinar His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and His Eminence Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, as well as other participants.
The “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” is a commemorative event of thanksgiving for the lives of those who faithfully practised their Christian faith till the shedding of their blood, offering at the same time the opportunity to raise awareness of the ongoing tragedy of those who are still today persecuted solely on the basis of faith or belief.
Bishop William Regis Fey, O.F.M. Cap., recently retired as the second bishop of the Diocese of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea, died late Tuesday night, January 19th, from Covid-related illness.
Bishop Fey was born in Pittsburgh on November 6, 1942, to Regis Fey and Dorothy (Clair) Fey, attending Middlesex Township Elementary School in Pittsburgh and St. Paul Grade School in Butler before enrolling at Saint Fidelis Seminary, Herman, for his high school and college education.
In November 2015, at the opening service of the General Synod of the Church of England, we had the privilege of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, now a Cardinal, preaching at the main service in Westminster Abbey in front of the Queen and the General Synod. Memorably he described persecutors as the great ecumenists, for he said they do not ask when they kill us, are you Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican or Protestant or Pentecostal? They ask only are you Christian?
And the reality of the ecumenism of blood is felt on this day as we commemorate the modern martyrs. It reminds us, and I’m reminded too by a fellow bishop in the Church of England who is themselves from a family where there is a modern martyr, that ecumenism and solidarity are with the persecuted, for we are united to them by their blood. It is not just something we feel for the persecuted nor that we stand to the towards the persecuted. ‘With’ is the key word and if we are going to be with them, whether it is the 21 martyrs in Libya (and I still remember the horror of that news) or whether it is in Nigeria or so many other parts of the world, we are there to listen as well as to speak; more to listen; to be in solidarity with them.