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.
The programme included the opening words of Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, Archbishop of Malines, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and featured addresses (either in–presence or video link) by His Grace Rowan Williams, Emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr Alana Harris of King’s College London; Emeritus Professor Jan De Mayer of the University of Leuven; Reverend Dr Jamie Hawkey, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey; Reverend Professor Thomas Pott, OSB, of the Monastery of Chevetogne and Consultor of this Pontifical Council; Reverend Professor Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR, of the Pontifical Accademia Alfonsiana and member of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission; Archbishop Ian Ernest, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome; and Reverend Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ, President of the Jesuit Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar. The symposium reflected on the context, impact and legacy of the Malines Conversations, and offered perspectives on the future of ecumenism, with particular reference to Anglican and Catholic dialogue and relations. Father Anthony Currer, official of the Pontifical Council responsible for Anglican-Catholic relations, attended the symposium.
The Malines Conversations, held in Mechelen (Malines) Belgium from 1921 to 1926, were a series of informal conversations between a select group of Catholic and Anglican theologians. The conversations have their origins on the chance meeting and subsequent friendship of Charles Lindley Wood, the second Viscount of Halifax, and Abbé Fernand Portal, a French Lazarist priest. The 1920 Lambeth Conference’s Appeal to Unity provided an opportunity for Lord Halifax to approach the Archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier, who was already engaged with the question of unity. The ecumenical spirit of these conversations anticipated the official dialogue taken up fifty years later by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Committee (ARCIC).
Further centenary celebrations are planned in Mechelen on 4 and 5 December hosted by Cardinal Joseph De Kesel.
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.
I have been asked to offer some thoughts on how Ecumenism is perceived and lived where Faith is flourishing. I wish to develop a practical approach that gives light to our reflection:
First, my own story, as I come from a context where faith flourishes.
Ecumenism is about relationships of faith. As a child I was profoundly disturbed by the way in which relationships were broken by the claim that one’s own faith was superior to another. It was clear that people acted in this way because they were asked to follow a set of unquestioned principles. Tensions within the family network were therefore fuelled by the nurturing of erroneous perceptions of the Other because of religious differences.
But, in the depth of my heart, I knew that there must be a way to break the barriers that separated us. As I grew up I came to learn that the love of God conquers everything – even the death of family relationships.
I grew up with this implicit dream for unity. It was consolidated by my early formation in an ecumenical setting. I attended Roman Catholic institutions for my schooling and it was during that time that my father (an Anglican priest) met the chaplain of my school Father Henri Souchon. From this encounter, a relationship was established between two priests from different denominations. Years later this led to a National Working Committee for Ecumenism and my father became the first Anglican priest to preach in a Roman Catholic Church in Mauritius.
Years later, as a diocesan bishop, the experience of my formative years sustained my desire to work relentlessly with other Church leaders so that our witness might bear the compassionate and redeeming love of Christ in the diverse Mauritian context. This ecumenical collaboration gave the Church the opportunity to mould a society where mutual respect lies at the heart of daily living. Through prayer, this special relationship was ignited by the grace of God so much so that, on my departure for Rome, the Catholic Bishop (Cardinal Maurice Piat) said that through friendship we have become brothers. Friendship in ecumenical relationships can forge genuine brotherhood if there is faith, love and grace.
Second, I offer an objective analysis on how it works from the region I come from:
My experience as Archbishop of the Indian Ocean and Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa showed me that whilst both Catholic and Anglican Churches were growing there was seldom collaboration between them. We were maintaining the status quo. Some unresolved issues emerging from our past colonial history seemed to act as stumbling blocks in our quest for mutual acceptance and respect. Nevertheless, certain circumstances brought people of Faith together across denominational boundaries. An example of this is the common commemoration of the martyrs of Uganda. This demonstrates how the powerful witness of a real and living faith brings Christians into closer relationship. The witness of these martyrs had an impact both in the growth of the Church in Uganda and on Christian unity.
Nourished by the commitment of those who, with heart and soul, believed in their call to witness to the love of Christ we, in turn, build up our own faith by encountering the faith of other Christians. However, nothing can happen without due sacrifice. We need to lay down our own selves and perceptions in order to give room to the sanctifying, liberating and unifying presence of Christ. This is not a naïve expression of a form of ecumenism, but one which is and should be grounded in the sacrificial love of Christ who emptied himself so that we can be reconciled to God our Father.
Whilst we see faith is flourishing in some parts of the world, this does not necessarily lead to a greater ecumenical momentum. Church leaders and influential members of our respective communities have responsibility, as the pioneers of the Malines Conversations had, to mobilise their imagination, energy and resources for building up a greater spirit of respect and love among Christians. This will bring about an ecumenism of action, to use a term beloved of both Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby, which in turn leads to the addressing of current societal contradictions:
Now is the time for examining our own treasures and traditions, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as the pioneers of the Malines Conversations did in their day.
Third, an Insight for the Future
The Church of Jesus Christ is a community built on relationships. We are that community. The first Christians made an impact on their communities because of the richness of their relationships. Any impact we have on our communities will be because of our relationship with Christ and one another. Christ is the gift that allows us to make the difference. The Malines Conversations first and foremost established relationships and relationships deepened unity.
This brings us to our role as Christians in the world. We are called to bring living faith to our relationships and, through that, help the church to be an enabler, a healer and a reconciler. Our responsibility is to devise a common plan of action for mission: locally, regionally and internationally: constantly to discern where the Spirit is leading us together.
There is need for costly commitment if we are to be effective in our mission. Such a task must not be built upon our own fantasies but founded on a real and living relationship with Christ and with each other.
The global pandemic has forced us to accept our inter-dependence and mutual responsibility. Now, more than ever, we realise that what happens in one part of the world has an impact on the other. In terms of vaccination – no-one is safe until everyone is safe. But our world, so often prefers separation and alienation; undermining stability. Discrimination, prejudice and the abuse of power mar the dignity of our shared humanity. Faith calls us to engagement and relationship with each other in society.
We have to be bold, creative, and imaginative so that ecumenically we can uphold the mission entrusted to us by Christ. He calls us to be companions in mission. Today, as we remember those who are engaged in the Malines Conversations, the leaders of Catholic and Anglican Churches should encourage their respective flocks to be in constant dialogue with each other.
The Malines Conversations were conversations in Europe. Those who took part were not necessarily representative of the full breadth and diversity of the Church. There were others in both churches who would have been aghast that these conversations were even happening. But the conversations took place in a Europe, and a Belgium, that had recently been torn apart physically and emotionally by war. Today ecumenical conversation, encounter and relationship has become worldwide: broader, more diverse and more inclusive. The Malines Conversations and the relationships they forged paved the way for the relationships we now enjoy.
We treasure that companionship which leads to greater cross-denominational encounter, and creates opportunities to discover Christ afresh in the other. This will foster a spirit of humility and provide a space for greater giving and receiving. Imbued with this spirit, our faith can help us to grow together in Christ.
At times we can be tempted to retreat into ourselves, wary of sacrifice or risk. But then we exclude ourselves. This is why I welcome the conversation that was initiated at Malines and the dialogue that began after Vatican II. We are called to engage with each other and listen to the others’ experience of Faith. We need to encourage official ecumenical dialogues on doctrinal and other issues. However, to realize an ecumenism of action, we need the grace of God, as Cardinal Mercier recognized a hundred years ago. A grace that will enable us now, today, to nurture our faith in the spirit of Fratelli tutti.
We are a people called to challenge the world. This is where we make the difference: in everyday life, in diversity and with companionship; exemplified in personal acts of service, bringing about justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace; and by an active ecumenical work that can alter those structures which deny human dignity.
We cannot tell how God will use the church in the future. But what we know is that we can be confident that God cares and he only asks us that we live out our faith. No task can be too great as he provides us with the power of His grace.
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.
Cardinal Cassidy was also President of the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism. During his mandate, the milestone document We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (1998) was published. In 2000, he accompanied Pope John Paul II on a visit to the Holy Land, during which the Holy Father ushered in the dialogue with the Great Rabbinate of Israel, entrusting the deepening process of Catholic reconciliation with the Jewish people to Cardinal Cassidy’s wise leadership.
On Cardinal Cassidy’s retirement, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Convinced that the progress of ecumenism was a central element in my own ministry and in view of the radical changes which came after the collapse of Communism, I judged that the Holy See needed your particular qualities and skills in its efforts to heal the historic wounds of division among Christians. Now I wish to thank you for all that you have achieved, not without great self-sacrifice, as a trusted partner in dialogue with the other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as in the excellent work you have done in building relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism. How many graces has the Lord granted his Church through your constant and effective cooperation” (26 February 2002)?
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity remembers Cardinal Cassidy with gratitude for his many contributions, and in particular for his gift of healing wounded relationships, promoting reconciliation, and building trust as key attributes of ecumenical relations. The Pontifical Council recalls the encouraging words of Cardinal Cassidy’s farewell homily, “Continue then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to dedicate yourselves and your talents to the search for the ‘noble goal’ of Christian Unity. ‘Duc in altum’/Be ready to ‘go out into the deep’, putting all your trust and hope in the Lord who has entrusted you with this task” (12 June 2001).
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 5 March 2021, the Steering Committee gathered virtually to discuss various items, including how best to bring more attention to the Joint Declaration agreement and association statements, which have recently been published in five languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian). The Committee also agreed to go forward with plans to produce an ecumenical Study Guide for the Joint Declaration that will help the process of reception and that will emphasize the unique theological contribution of each of the five Christian traditions. Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Reverend Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer, official of the Pontifical Council, represented the Catholic Church.
It is anticipated that the Study Guide will also provide an opportunity to highlight the great strides from conflict to communion that the Christian community has achieved over the last six decades of bilateral dialogues and the healing of memories that led up to the Notre Dame Consultation Statement which stated: “We believe that the Holy Spirit has brought us together following our agreement on the doctrine of justification, expressed in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) which states that: ‘By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews out hearts while equipping and calling us to good works’ (JDDJ §15).”
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.
In his message Pope Francis highlighted that the 21 Coptic martyrs were “baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood. They are our Saints, Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions”. The Holy Father then thanked “the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith”.
In his address Cardinal Koch affirmed that the martyrdom of the 21 Copts in 2015 had enabled Christians to understand that “martyrs are not only people of the early Church represented on some ancient icons, but their very own contemporaries”. Referring to Saint John Paul II, who believed that “[i]n a theocentric vision, we Christians already have a common Martyrology”, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity expressed the hope that “martyrs of other Churches, like the 21 commemorated today, may also be included one day in the martyrology of the Catholic Church”.
Full text of Pope Francis’ video message
Today is the day I have in my heart, that February of 2015. I hold in my heart that baptism of blood, those twenty-one men baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood. They are our Saints, Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions. They are those who have blanched their lives in the blood of the Lamb, they are those… of the people of God, the faithful people of God.
They had gone to work abroad to support their families: ordinary men, fathers of families, men with the illusion [desire] to have children; men with the dignity of workers, who not only seek to bring home bread, but to bring it home with the dignity of work. And these men bore witness to Jesus Christ. Their throats slit by the brutality of Isis, they died saying: “Lord Jesus!”, confessing the name of Jesus.
It is true that this was a tragedy, that these people lost their lives on that beach; but it is also true that the beach was blessed by their blood. And it is even more true that from their simplicity, from their simple but consistent faith, they received the greatest gift a Christian can receive: bearing witness to Jesus Christ to the point of giving their life.
I thank God our Father because He gave us these courageous brothers. I thank the Holy Spirit because He gave them the strength and consistency to confess Jesus Christ to the point of shedding blood. I thank the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith. And I thank the mothers of these people, of these twenty-one men, who “nursed” them in the faith: they are the mothers of God’s holy people who transmit the faith “in dialect”, a dialect that goes beyond languages, the dialect of belonging.
I join all of you, brother bishops, in this commemoration. To you, great, beloved Tawadros, brother bishop and friend. To you, Justin Welby, who also wanted to come to this meeting. And to all the other bishops and priests, but above all I join the holy faithful people of God who in their simplicity, with their consistency and inconsistencies, with their graces and sins, carry forth the confession of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is Lord.
I thank you, twenty-one saints, Christian saints of all confessions, for your witness. And I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for being so close to your people, for not forgetting them.
Let us pray together today in memory of these twenty-one Coptic Martyrs: may they intercede for us all before the Father. Amen.
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.
Upon completing his second year of college studies, Bishop Bill was invested with the Capuchin habit in Annapolis, MD on July 13, 1962, receiving the religious name Elroy. He made his profession of vows one year later on July 14, 1963. He relinquished his religious name in favour of retaining his baptismal name, William, when that option became possible in 1968. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1968.
He completed his theological studies at Capuchin College in Washington, DC in 1969 and received a Master of Arts degree from the Catholic University of America in 1970 before enrolling for doctoral studies at Oxford University in England, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1974. His doctoral thesis was titled John Henry Newman, Empiricist Philosophy and the Certainty of Faith. His interest in the work of the future saint would continue throughout his life: He revised his doctoral thesis and published it in book form as Faith and Doubt: the Unfolding of Newman’s Thought on Certainty (Patmos Press: 1976), wrote scholarly articles and delivered numerous papers and lectures on Cardinal Newman’s thought and writings over the years.
Prior to his consecration as Bishop in 2010, Father Bill served the Capuchin Order and the Church as a passionate educator of friars and seminarians for more than thirty years, holding teaching positions at St. Fidelis College in Herman, PA (1974-1979), Borromeo College of Ohio in Wickliffe (1979-1986), St. Fidelis College in Madang, Papua New Guinea (1988), and Holy Spirit Seminary/Catholic Theological Institute, Bomana, Papua New Guinea (1988-2010), serving also as the Dean of Studies from 2000-2010. He was especially fond of the three terms he spent as Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at St. Bonaventure College in Lusaka, Zambia. It was during his sabbatical year in 1986-87 that he began to seriously consider the previously latent idea of missionary service. He sought and was granted assignment to the Capuchin mission in Papua New Guinea upon the completion of his sabbatical, arriving there in the Spring of 1987. After a year of orientation in the Southern Highlands of the country, Father Bill took up residence at the national seminary in the National Capital District and began the next chapter of his life in earnest. He saw his work there as both a continuation of his former labours and as a new challenge of teaching in a radically different culture and context. “I try to help them find truth in their own thinking,” he said, “the truth when things go well and the truth when things are out of their control.”
From the final years of his theological studies, throughout his doctoral work and teaching career, Father Bill maintained an active involvement with the pastoral work of the Church, giving retreats and days of recollection, regularly assisting with sacramental work at local parishes and serving as a spiritual director and mentor for generations of friars, seminarians and laity. Coupled with his academic and intellectual fervour was a passion for ensuring the best possible formation of his Capuchin students and other seminarians. He served variously as Secretary for Formation in the Capuchin Province of St. Augustine in Pittsburgh, Director of the Capuchin Formation Program at Borromeo College in Ohio, Secretary for Formation for the Capuchin Vice-Province of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Rector of the Capuchin Friars College in Bomana and Chairperson for the Association of Melanesian Formators of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Bishop Fey was a brilliant and very active man, yet he had a gentle spirit, strong but never harsh or unduly stern. He was known for his wry sense of humour, seemingly able to find a bit of comedy even in very difficult situations. He delighted in describing even embarrassing moments for himself, enjoying telling about occasions when he acted foolishly. He enjoyed telling about the time while he was in England when he was granted access to Cardinal Newman’s private study where, upon being handed a priceless volume (Perrone’s Praelectiones Theoloicae) from one of the shelves, he accidentally fumbled it – not onto the floor but right into the dirt and ashes of a wastebasket. He was a highly competitive man as well, whether at the card table or on the tennis (or handball, or squash) court. He often competed against himself, sometimes seeing how much he could cram into a time period: he was known to cut the grass while running so that he could get a good workout and finish a chore at the same time. He worked hard, often leaving himself little room for rest and recuperation.
It was his compassionate heart, though, that most likely led to his being named the second Bishop of Kimbe in 2010. He was a true missionary, and his love for the people of Papua New Guinea was evident from the beginning of his time there. He went to a diocese that had not had a bishop in over two years and spent himself as a true shepherd there, one who – in the words of Pope Francis – had “the smell of the sheep” about him. He had few priests, no funds, and poor prospects but he threw himself into his work. His labours wore away at his health over time. He suffered two strokes, the first in 2016 and the second in 2018, but recovered from both to a large extent. He was past the mandated age for a bishop’s retirement when he finally returned to Pittsburgh in 2020.
Bishop Bill Fey was heavily involved in the work of ecumenism while in Papua New Guinea, serving as Secretary for Ecumenism for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the country. It is perhaps God’s plan that he died during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity late Tuesday night at the age of 78, his years full of wisdom and grace, serving 57 years as a Capuchin friar, 42 as a priest and 10 as a bishop.
He is survived by two brothers, Robert (Paula) of Mars PA and Joseph (Carol) of Valencia PA, and two sisters, Carol (Daniel) Mioduszewski of Rio Communities NM and Patricia (Terry) Rings of Lake Charles LA.
Bishop Fey’s body will be received at Our Lady of the Angels Church, Lawrenceville, at 6:00 PM on Sunday Evening, January 24th. Viewing will begin at 6:30 PM and a Vigil Service will be conducted at 8:00 PM.
His Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 AM on Monday, January 25th, on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, at Our Lady of the Angels Church, after which his body will be transported to Herman, PA for burial at St. Mary of the Assumption Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Capuchin Friars, 220 37th Street, Pittsburgh. All donations received will be forwarded to the Diocese of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea.
Speech given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a webinar to mark the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of London’s Contemporary Martyrs Day
Your Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, your Eminences, your Graces, your Excellencies and, collectively, dear sisters and brothers in Christ.
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.
I was reminded earlier today by my colleague Father Will Adam of 1 Corinthians chapter 12. There the theme of St Paul’s writing are gifts, the gifts of the spirit which mean that one part of the body cannot say to another ‘I have no need of you’. But when one part of the body is in pain, neither at that point can any other part say I have no need of you, for we cannot ignore the pain.
And when we listen to the martyrs in the ecumenism of blood, when we allow the Spirit of God who has sustained them to speak to our hearts we hear voices very often ignored. For with a few exceptions such as the two bishops martyred in Syria a few years ago, the voices of the martyrs are usually those who are normally unheard. We stand by the mass graves of farmers who would never normally have their voice heard round the world, but in their martyrdom their voices echo in our hearts. They remind us of Philippians chapter 2, that because Christ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped he humbled himself.
The martyrs are those who are humble, who are poor, who are usually ignored, they are often in neglected circumstances and except in the mind of God their graves are either unknown or quickly left behind.
I’m so grateful to His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos for this day. For in that we remember those who lead us; who are welcomed before God; who are those who speak to us most clearly of the incarnation and of the cross and of the resurrection; who call us forward in imitation and with solidarity. Thank you.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced revised dates for the 15th Lambeth Conference. Hosted in Canterbury, Kent, the face-to-face conference will be planned for the 27th July – 8th August 2022 (with the official conference ending on the 7th August and departures on the 8th August).
The conference has been rescheduled from the original 2020 dates due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference organisers will continue to monitor the implications of COVID-19 and follow official health guidance in the months ahead.
With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together’ the conference will focus on what it means for the Anglican Communion – shaped by the Five Marks of Mission – to be responsive to the needs and challenges of a fast changing world in the 21st Century. This will be the first Lambeth Conference to meet both face-to-face and virtually. As well as the meeting in Canterbury in 2022, the Lambeth Conference will now be planned as a conference journey, that runs in phases before, during and beyond the face-to-face gathering.
Starting in 2021 the focus of phase one will be on introducing some of the major themes and strategic pillars of the conference programme. The conference community of bishops and spouses – and wider Anglican audiences – will be invited to take part in the Lambeth conversation in different ways. This will be facilitated through a combination of online, regional and intraregional meetings and supporting resources.
With bishops and spouses invited from 165 countries of the Anglican Communion, the conference community represents a diversity of cultures and Christian tradition. The virtual phase of the conference will give more time to meet one another, start to discuss conference topics and have greater opportunity to share insights and experiences from their provinces and church communities.
It will also ensure that the use of conference resources and planning for future outcomes in the life of the Anglican Communion can be as effective as possible.
A working group is being appointed to shape the conference journey, comprised by representatives from around the communion. These are the Bishop of Penrith, The Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson (who also serves as a member of the conference Design Group); the Right Revd Bishop Anthony Poggo, (Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser on Anglican Communion Affairs); the Revd Prof Joseph D Galgalo (Vice Chancellor and associate professor of Theology at St. Pauls University in Kenya) and the Bishop of Amritsar, The Right Revd Pradeep Samantaroy (The Church of North India – United, also member of the Lambeth Conference Design Group). The group will work with the Archbishop of Canterbury and wider conference teams to construct an engaging programme relevant to key issues in the world and the life of the Communion.
Phil George, the CEO of the Lambeth Conference Company, said:
With the message of ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, it’s vital that planning for our meeting of bishops and spouses responds to the new world we find ourselves in since COVID-19. Despite the challenges and disruption that the pandemic has caused, we’ve also seen huge creativity and adaptability as churches have started to meet virtually. The opportunities that technology provides for online meeting and engagement, have opened up new ways for us to connect, pray and be community for one another. I’m looking forward to collaborating with the Working Group to help develop and deliver the Lambeth Conference conversation.
The timetable and further details for the pre-conference programme will be released in 2021.
In this Encyclical, Pope Francis sets out a clear, exciting and ambitious vision of the role of human friendship and solidarity as the basis for a better future world order.
Throughout this work, he interweaves the themes of the individual and the social, and stresses their necessary interdependence, rejecting the extremes both of individualism and of social collectivism as contrary to the true dignity and rights of all human beings. His is a true and clearly Christian voice of radical moderation, neither captured by the individualism of the culture nor a prisoner of the dreams of social collectivism.
He sets out a vision of healthy human, societal and international relationships based on concern for the other, on listening, on sharing and on openness to new ideas and experiences, rejecting the increasing tendency for individuals and societies to retreat into bunkers of the familiar and the safe. It is a vision embedded in a deep Christology, reflecting the nature of the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16).
This is a book both thoughtful and joyful. It takes us at times to the worst of human behaviour but it offers us ways to forge a better world. Climate change, charity both personal and national, migration, human trafficking and the dignity of work are all here, along with many other topics of equal significance and urgency. It paints a possible future of a world that is holistic, recognising human dignity and holding it together with divine creation and penetrated throughout by the God whose love is authentically shown in mutual generosity (I John 3:17).
This is a truly ecumenical document, in which Pope Francis cites not only Orthodox Patriarch Bartholemew but also Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He strikingly refers to his fruitful dialogue with Grand Iman Ahmad Al-Tayyeb to emphasise that the thrust of his argument, whilst rooted deeply in the Christian faith, is of universal force. He draws inspiration also from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi.
Whilst written from a profoundly, inspiringly Christian stance, Pope Francis explicitly sets out a vision to which non-believers can subscribe. One would have to be extraordinarily narrow-minded not to pay attention to his clarion call for action for purely sectarian or similar reasons.
This remarkable Pope has done the world another service by bringing together in one text such a wealth of insight into some of the most pressing issues of our time. It is a volume which will repay reading and re-reading. It is my earnest hope that it will be not only read but acted upon by those in power throughout the world.
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.
Prioritising the health and safety of our event attendees
The safety and health of conference delegates is of utmost priority to the Lambeth Conference Company. In addition, Bishops and spouses attending the conference have an important leadership role in their dioceses. As well as providing pastoral support to their churches and congregations, many are also involved in coordinating volunteering and bolstering support services, as churches of the Anglican Communion play their part in responding to the COVID-19 crisis around the world.
In consideration of all these factors –the decision has been taken to postpone until the British summer of 2022. Whilst the challenges of the pandemic will be ongoing for many years to come, it is hoped that by holding the event in 2022, restrictions on large events and travel may have eased making conditions more favourable for this important gathering to occur.
Between now and the conference, the Lambeth Conference organising teams will work to consult with the bishops and spouses of the Anglian Communion to ensure that the experiences of COVID-19 in their countries – and wider issues of church and global concern – are built in to scoping the priorities and outcomes of the conference programme.
Alongside this, the conference team will be sharing different resources with bishops and spouses, to help them with their thinking and preparations for the event. These may include Bible resources, group discussion tools and special papers on matters relevant to the Anglican Communion. These will be available through a new Lambeth Conference App and online resource hub on the conference web site launching in the months ahead.
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.
A steady stream of visitors came throughout the day to the Cathedral, which had been transformed by a number measures to maintain hygiene and social distancing. There was a prayerful atmosphere and a feeling of joy and relief to be praying once again before the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral.
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.
The Dean said after the visit:
“In Westminster, we rejoice as we open the doors of the Abbey with the words ’Peace to this house’. We have talked so much about isolation in recent months. For many that has been a heavy burden. Today, the Abbey opens for private prayer; public worship will follow later. This is a good moment to be reminded, by the two Archbishops, that there is no isolation in prayer. Prayer brings us into the presence of God, into the communion of saints and into the company of the whole church. Today we are in the best of company.”
Though the Abbey has been closed to the public since the end of March, clergy and residents have continued to worship in the precincts. The Abbey has also produced a podcast of readings, prayers and a short sermon on Sundays and festivals. HRH The Prince of Wales recorded a reading for the Easter Day podcast.
Westminster Abbey was founded by King Edward the Confessor but though his church was finally consecrated on Holy Innocents’ Day, 28th December 1065, he was too ill to attend and died a week later. He was officially canonized as Saint and Confessor by Pope Alexander III in February 1161. The shrine, at which the Archbishops prayed today, which contains his mortal remains was completed in 1269 when Henry III rebuilt his ancestor’s church. It is now a place of pilgrimage particularly during Edwardtide in October each year.
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.
Despite Willebrands meeting with Fisher, no one at the SPUC had specialist knowledge of Anglicanism or the archbishop, and so in preparation for the visit the Secretariat contacted the British Jesuit Bernard Leeming who had taught at the Gregorian but had since returned to Oxford. Leeming wrote three times giving his appraisal of Fisher and his communion. In these early days the Secretariat was on a steep learning curve.
Lambeth Palace announced the archbishop’s trip on 3rd November: he would be travelling to Istanbul to visit the Ecumenical Patriarch, then to Jerusalem and finally to Rome where he would visit Pope John. The news was greeted enthusiastically by some but with suspicion by many others, both Anglican and Catholic. Anglicans and other British Christians of a more evangelical or Protestant stripe opposed the visit fearful that the archbishop was selling out. On the day he arrived in Rome Fisher preached at Evensong in All Saints Anglican Church. The sermon unfavourably contrasted the papal monarchical governance of Catholicism with the more collegial structure of Anglicanism. This was political move on Fisher’s part to assuage fears in his own communion. When asked at a press conference later about the criticism of his visit he invited those critics to read his sermon and be reassured of his commitment to Anglicanism.
There were also considerable anxieties on the Catholic side. Cardinal Tardini, the Secretary of State, had opposed the visit and was determined to minimise its impact in the press. No one from the Vatican greeted Archbishop Fisher when he landed at Ciampino. Instead he was met by Sir Peter Scarlett, the British Minister to the Holy See, who gave Fisher Tardini’s conditions for the visit: there were to be no photographs at all; Fisher should not visit the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity; there should be no press release, and no Vatican officials should be invited to the reception for Fisher at the British Minister’s house.
Notwithstanding the concerns on both sides, Fisher was well received by Pope John and the two Christian leaders spoke for over an hour. Later Fisher would recount some details of the conversation. He thanked the Pope for the establishment of the new Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and Pope John responded that Fisher would be meeting with Cardinal Bea that afternoon, directly countermanding Tardini’s instructions. That meeting, which also included Mgr Willebrands and the Revd John Satterthwaite, General Secretary of the Church of England’s Council for Foreign Relations, gave an opportunity to talk about relations between the two communions and about the process of nominating observers to the forthcoming Vatican Council.
An immediate fruit of the visit was the appointment of Canon Bernard Pawley as a permanent personal representative to the Holy See. When the SPCU sent out invitations to World Communions for observers to the Council it was the Anglican Communion which was first to respond nominating three theologians led by Bishop John Moorman and accompanied by Pawley.
Amongst the observers one of the most enthusiastic was the Methodist Church historian and ecumenist Professor Albert Outler from Southern Methodist University, USA. Outler would later recall that there were a broad range of opinions among the observers which he categorised into camps of “skeptics”, “realists” and “visionaries”. Seated beneath the statue of St Longinus the observers had an excellent view of proceedings and were provided with texts, translations, and meetings with periti all organised by the staff of SPUC. The event of the Council enabled the new dicastery to establish excellent relations with other Christian communions through the observers. Outler described “the supernatural charity of our hosts in the Secretariat that gathered and held us together”. However, in distinction to the earlier visit of Archbishop Fisher this hospitality now extended beyond the staff of the secretariat. Outler talked of the observers being overwhelmed by the “warmth and breadth of Catholic hospitality” and not only from SPUC, “but from everyone in Vatican City, from the Swiss Guard to the Vatican Infirmary to the Pope himself”.
Three months after the close of the Council Archbishop Fisher’s successor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey visited Rome and met with Pope Paul VI in the Sistine Chapel and in St Paul’s Outside the Walls. In contrast to the 1960 visit this meeting of two Christian leaders received unrestricted media attention, there was a Common Declaration announcing the intention to begin a “serious dialogue” and there were bold gestures, none more memorable than Pope Paul’s gift of the episcopal ring he had worn as Archbishop of Milan.
In October 1967 the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission met for the first time in Ariccia, outside Rome. In the same year the Anglican-Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission met three times. The Malta Report which it published laid out the three subjects which ARCIC I was to address: Eucharist, ministry and authority.
The Common Declaration of Archbishop Ramsey and Pope Paul noted that there were serious obstacles to unity between our two communions. Developments in the last sixty years, particularly the ordination of women and questions of human sexuality, have brought new difficulties. Nevertheless, as Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby made clear in their Common Declaration of 2016, such obstacles “must not lead to a lessening of our ecumenical endeavours” nor alter our commitment to dialogue.
Today we recognise that behind our differences lies the difference in governance referred to, albeit polemically, in Archbishop Fisher’s All Saints sermon. The dispersed authority structures of the Anglican Communion have led to enormous tensions which threaten its integrity and challenge it to find structures which can maintain its unity. The Catholic Church also recognises the need for reform of its own structures, the need to become a more synodal Church as articulated by Pope Francis on numerous occasions. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission has addressed these issues by adopting the method of Receptive Ecumenism. Recognising the other as a community graced by the Holy Spirit we are able to discern “what the Holy Spirit has sown in them [our dialogue partner], which is also meant to be a gift to us” (Evangelii Gaudium 246). In its agreed statement, Walking Together on the Way, the commission envisages our two communions as pilgrim companions and as resources for one another as we reform and renew ourselves in fidelity to Christ. Walking together in this way we also grow together, becoming more recognisable to one another as authentic Christian communities.
After Archbishop Fisher’s visit to Rome one English newspaper featured a cartoon of the Pope and Archbishop with the caption, “So long, see you in 2360”. However, Fisher himself addressing the Church of England Assembly had opined, “in time it ought not to be more unusual for Christian leaders to meet in this way”. Happily the Archbishop’s words were the more prophetic. It is now expected that Christian leaders meet in this way, exchange warm fraternal greetings, pray together, and give common witness to the Christian faith. The most recent example of such common witness was given in Pope Francis’s video message recorded to be broadcast as part of Archbishop Justin Welby‘s Pentecost liturgy. In the message Pope Francis prays that Catholics and Anglicans together might be “witnesses of mercy for the human family” because “We cannot ask others to be united if we ourselves take different paths.” Sixty years of fostering relations between our churches has done much to unite our Christian witness to the world.
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.”
The Pope’s message contrasted God “infecting” the world with life at Pentecost, with the contagion that has ravaged the world during the coronavirus pandemic. Pope Francis describes the Spirit as the Comforter and as the closeness of God who “assures us that we are not alone” and gives “that gentle strength that always inspires courage, even amid suffering”.
The Pope also prays for world leaders and expresses the hope that the pandemic will be an opportunity to hear the gospel message of repentance announced by Peter at the first Pentecost. In a striking phrase Pope Francis warns that we have been “anaesthetized before the cry of the poor and the devastation of our planet” and that we cannot return to former ways.
This is the second time that Pope Francis has contributed a video–message to Thy Kingdom Come. Last year, during the retreat that the Pope and Archbishop jointly hosted for spiritual and religious leaders from South Sudan in Casa Santa Marta, Archbishop Welby invited Pope Francis to record a message on the Archbishop’s phone. The Pope’s participation demonstrates his support for the Archbishop’s Thy Kingdom Come movement as a call to unity, heeding the prayer of Jesus “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
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.
The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission was due to meet this year in the monastery of Bose in Northern Italy from 9–16 May. Due to the coronavirus pandemic it was impossible for members to travel to this venue and so the Commission convened virtually online. We are grateful to the community of Bose for its generosity and understanding that we were not able to meet in person. To enable the participation of members from around the world and across many time zones (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States) the Commission met over four days (12–15 May) for two hours, beginning at 12 noon London time each day. Various sub-groups also met directly before and after these plenary meetings. Each day’s meeting began with a time of prayer, and the group remembered in particular Bishop Robert Christian, OP, who sadly died after the last plenary in Jerusalem.
ARCIC III’s mandate identified “two interrelated areas as critical for further work: the Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching”. The Commission addressed the first ecclesiological part of its mandate in the agreed statement, Walking Together on the Way published in 2018. ARCIC’s focus now, therefore, is the process es of ethical discernment operative in the communion of the Church. Much of the work of the virtual plenary meeting centred on the schema developed by a sub-group during ARCIC’s 2019 plenary in Jerusalem and since adopted by the whole Commission. Papers were prepared on how discernment is understood within each tradition, the status of ethical teaching, and to what extent ethical differences have proved Church-dividing in Christian history. The Commission also heard presentations regarding the sources and discernment of the Church’s social teaching.
In its final meeting the Commission considered its future work and decided to refine the schema with a view to two further virtual meetings in the autumn of this year, and then for a drafting group to prepare a text for the plenary in 2021 (8-15 May).
The Most Revd Dr Philip Freier
Most Reverend Bernard Longley
Dr Moeawa Callaghan
The Revd Dr Isaias Ezequiel Cachine
The Revd Canon Garth Minott
The Most Revd Linda Nicholls
The Revd Dr Alexander Ross
The Revd Dr Peter Sedgwick
The Rt Revd Christopher Hill (Consultant)
Sister Margaret Atkins OSA
Reverend Father Albino Barrera OP
Reverend Father Paul Béré SJ
Dr Kristin Colberg
Professor Sigrid Müller
Dr Emmanuel Nathan
Reverend Father Vimal Tirimanna CSsR
Professor Paul Murray (Consultant)
Professor Dr Myriam Wijlens
The Revd Dr William Adam (Anglican Co-Secretary)
Reverend Anthony Currer (Catholic Co-Secretary)
The Ven Jonathan Gough (Minutes)
The Revd Neil Vigers (Anglican Communion Office)
Changes to the Commission:
Very sadly the Most Reverend Robert Christian, OP, died suddenly in July 2019. Due to pressures of work, Dr Paula Gooder has had to resign from the Commission and Sister Margaret Atkins announced that she also feels unable to continue due to other commitments.
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”.
“Diversi e uniti” includes a previously unpublished chapter entitled “With the gaze of Christ” in which the Holy Father reflects on how for truly human communication it is necessary “to enter into contact with the world and with others, and to build relationships”, explaining that “without this look of love, human communication… can easily become only a dialectical duel”. Communication can then become not simply a means of exchanging information, but of building communion. He goes on to reflect that effective dialogue means being secure in one’s own identity, but also recognizing the identity of the other and being open to their freedom.
The “Exchange of Gifts” series has an ecumenical focus, with most volumes including a preface written by representatives of other Churches or Ecclesial Communities. The first two volumes of the series had been prefaced respectively by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and by Patriarch Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate
The LEV’s catalogue also includes Acta Œcumenica the new annual publication of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity which substitutes and continues on from “Information Service”.
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.
Looking at what UFO has done over the last few months gives a flavour of the work and its importance. We have organised and supported a number of international dialogues with outrageous acronyms – there is ICAOTD, where Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox have been finding significant agreement on the subject of climate change and issues surrounding the end of life; there is IRAD, where Anglicans have, through dialogue, come to an agreement on the nature of the church with the Reformed churches (including those known as Presbyterian or Congregational); in AOOIC Anglicans have got to know much better the Oriental Orthodox churches, mainly based in the Middle East; and in ARCIC, the longest-standing of the current dialogues, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are beginning to explore how each church makes important decisions on ethical teaching. We hope to start some conversations with Pentecostal churches at the world level soon – but we don’t yet have an acronym for that.
At the centre of UFO’s work is IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. IASCUFO meets annually to review the work of the dialogues, to advise the Instruments of Communion (including the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting) and to consider developments in ecumenical relationships, liturgy and doctrine from around the Communion. The last meeting of IASCUFO took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2019.
The conversations and dialogues comprise people from all over the world – reflecting the breadth of the Anglican Communion and drawing on the depth of knowledge, expertise and experience that the Communion possesses.
All of the work of UFO has as its backdrop and its underpinning the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ for its mission in the world: seeking that unity which is Christ’s will for his people.
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.
“We invite the Churches of the Anglican Communion to set apart the Fifth Sunday of Lent (29 March 2020) as a day to focus on the Prayers of Repentance produced by the Task Group.”
Last week’s meeting in Jordan was the third Primates’ Meeting since Justin Welby became Archbishop of Canterbury. His first, in January 2016, was called in part to address disagreements and division within the Anglican Communion. At that meeting, the Primates agreed to “walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ.”
At the next meeting, in October 2017, the Primates reviewed the previous discussion and agreement to walk together, and said: “we endorsed this approach, which we will continue with renewed commitment”.
In 2018 and 2019 a series of six regional Primates’ Meetings were held at which the Anglican leaders discussed plans for the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, taking place in July and August this year. Those plans formed part of the Primates’ discussions last week in Jordan.