Archbishop George Carey’s address to Pope John Paul II

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George Carey. "Archbishop George Carey’s address to Pope John Paul II", ARCIC-II 375 (Rome, 5 Dec. 1996).

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s address

December 5, 1996: In the late morning the Archbishop and his delega­tion were received by the Holy Father. After a private audience the Archbishop presented his delegation and then he and the Holy Father pronounced the addresses reproduced below. At the end of the meeting gifts were exchanged. The Archbishop presented the Holy Father with a specially designed silver host box lined with English wood. The Holy Father gave the Archbishop and accompanying bishops a pectoral cross each.

Your Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ, it gives me great pleasure to greet you once again in the name of our common Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

This morning, we have had the opportunity to discuss many matters that, as Christian leaders, are of great concern to us both. I am particularly grateful for the warmth of the welcome that you have given to myself, my wife and my colleagues. Rome has played a significant role in my own spiritual journey and these few days have meant more to me than I am able to say now. I am grateful, too, for the chance that we have had to speak together privately. These moments of personal exchange are a precious gift where minds meet in the service of the Gospel and I give thanks to God for them.

It is now thirty years since your predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and mine, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, met together in prayer in the Church of St Paul’s without the Walls here in Rome. On that occasion, Pope Paul gave to Archbishop Ramsey the Episcopal ring that I am wearing today. It had been given to the Pope as a gift from the City of Milan, when he was the incumbent of the See of St. Ambrose. This ring is an important and treasured reminder of the common commitment of the See of Rome and the See of Canterbury to the cause of Christian Unity.

It seems somehow fitting that when I take my leave of you tomorrow, I shall travel to Milan for the opening of a year of celebrations of the sixteen hundredth anniversary of the death of St. Ambrose.

In the Common Declaration signed by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey, they announced their intention to inaugurate a ‘serious dialogue’ between our two Churches — a dialogue that was to include ‘… not only theological matters … but also matters of practical difficulty felt on either side’.

The fruits of that dialogue were published after its final meeting at St Georges House, Windsor in the late summer of 1981 and were consequently examined by our two Churches both on the national and international levels.

That the work of the First Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission had been so demonstrably effective is shown that in the next year (1982) Your Holiness, together with my immediate predecessor inaugurated a second International Commission to carry forward the theological task.

I am pleased that both the co-chairmen of the present Commission, Bishop Mark Santer, Bishop of Birmingham, and Bishop Cormac Murphy-O’Connor are present with us today so that I can pay tribute to them both personally for their able leadership and their unstinting commitment to the heavy burdens that our Churches have placed on their shoulders. We look forward, hopefully, to their next document which, I understand, is nearing completion.

In thanking the current co-chairmen, I should also like to take the opportunity to thank all those members of both Commissions, past and present together with their successive theological secretaries who have all devoted themselves to their tasks with skill and assiduity.

Your Holiness, few of us would deny that the work of ARCIC I and ARCIC 2 has begun the laying of the foundations for full visible unity between our Churches. The enormous contribution that both Commissions have made in identifying our fundamental agreement concerning the Holy Eucharist, the Ministry, the doctrine of justification by faith; to say nothing of substantial progress in the way we see authority exercised in the Church and the forming of moral theology, is a rich legacy that we can draw upon in the days to come.

Thus the two commissions of ARCIC have identified and articulated a remarkable degree of theological and ecclesiological convergence between our two Churches. That is not to gainsay that its work has, on occasions suffered disappointments, especially at some of the more negative responses that have been received from both of our Churches.

Moreover, we recognise that other obstacles have been seen by some as obtruding themselves into the path of swift progress towards full, visible unity. However, as ecumenical partners we are called to affirm the integrity of the other, knowing that decisions will sometimes be made which we ourselves find difficult.

I believe that the theological task which we have started must continue and that we must commit ourselves and our resources to it. I feel also that we need as Christian leaders to listen to those in our Churches who are living the ecumenical vocation to its fullest and whose voices call out to those in authority in the Church in tones of frustration and anxiety.

Amongst those who have a particular vocation to foster Christian Unity are many who are living in mixed-marriages who need our support and pastoral sensitivity in affirming their individual integrity and special situation.

It is my hope, then, thirty years after the inception of the dialogue between our two Churches, and in the light of the coming Great Jubilee, that those with authority in both our churches should recommit themselves to facing the ecumenical challenge and to showing active leadership in this area of the life of both of our churches.

It is also my contention that we have not yet received into the life of our Churches all the varied fruits of the dialogues so far. These, together with all of the other bilateral and multi-lateral dialogues in which both of our churches are involved should be studied at all levels of our churches, local, national and international.

Your Holiness, I am accompanied on my visit to you by representative bishops from around the Anglican Communion. From my own travels around the Communion I am aware that relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics vary enormously, but I am also very conscious from my own experience of the warm and co-operative relations which do exist in so many places around the world.

I think particularly of those places where the Churches’ mission takes place in situations of great need, unrest and violence. In this season of Advent, the Church waits for the coming of the Prince of Peace and all Christians, as you mention in Ut Unum Sint, discover the deep unity which already exists among us in their common concern for and active propagation of peace and justice throughout the world.

The opening of a new Christian Millennium offers to all Christians an opportunity for repentance of those actions of the past which have contributed to our present disunity a commitment to witness to the world of the truth of the Gospel that we hold in common trust and a desire to engage with the world in order that God’s Kingdom of justice, peace and faithfulness be realised here on earth.

In conclusion, I should like to thank you for all the generous hospitality that has been shown to us, not only by Your Holiness personally but also on your behalf by the Office of your Secretary of State, by our friends in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by the Venerable English College.

I am now the fifth Archbishop of Canterbury to visit the Holy See, and it is the second time that you and I have met personally. I am aware that I bring with me the hopes and aspirations of millions of Anglican Christians throughout the world all of whom will be watching this visit with prayerful interest.

As a token of our fraternal love and friendship, I should like to offer you this modest gift of a silver wafer box, lined with English yew wood; on its lid is the ancient Cross of Canterbury. Please accept it with love and gratitude for your ministry.