Dated: 29 Apr. 1977
Collection: Fraternal visits between Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury
Meeting: Vatican City, 29 April 1977
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1. After four hundred years of estrangement, it is now the third time in seventeen years that an archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope embrace in Christian friendship in the city of Rome. Since the visit of Archbishop Ramsey eleven years have passed, and much has happened in that time to fulfil the hopes then expressed and to cause us to thank God.
2. As the Roman Catholic Church and the constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion have sought to grow in mutual understanding and Christian love, they have come to recognise, to value and to give thanks for a common faith in God our Father, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit; our common baptism into Christ; our sharing of the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, the Chalcedonian definition, and the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance for many centuries with its living traditions of liturgy, theology, spirituality and mission.
3. At the same time in fulfilment of the pledge of eleven years ago to “a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed” (Common Declaration PPVI/ABC 1966) Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians have faced calmly and objectively the historical and doctrinal differences which have divided us. Without compromising their respective allegiances, they have addressed these problems together, and in the process they have discovered theological convergences often as unexpected as they were happy.
4. The Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission has produced three documents: on the Eucharist, on Ministry and Ordination and on Church and Authority. We now recommend that the work it has begun be pursued, through procedures appropriate to our respective Communions, so that both of them may be led along the path towards unity.
The moment will shortly come when the respective Authorities must evaluate the conclusions.
5. The response of both communions to the work and fruits of theological dialogue will be measured by the practical response of the faithful to the task of restoring unity, which as the Second Vatican Council says “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike” and “extends to everyone according to the talents of each”. (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 5). We rejoice that this practical response has manifested itself in so many forms of pastoral cooperation in many parts of the world; in meetings of bishops, clergy and faithful.
6. In mixed marriages between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, where the tragedy of our separation at the sacrament of union is seen most starkly, cooperation in pastoral care (Matrimonia Mixta, par. 14) in many places has borne fruit in increased understanding. Serious dialogue has cleared away many misconceptions and shown that we still share much that is deep-rooted in the Christian tradition and ideal of marriage, though important differences persist, particularly regarding remarriage after divorce. We are following attentively the work thus far accomplished in this dialogue by the Joint Commission on the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages. It has stressed the need for fidelity and witness to the ideal of marriage, set forth in the New Testament and constantly taught in Christian tradition. We have a common duty to defend this tradition and ideal and the moral values which derive from it.
7. All such cooperation, which must continue to grow and spread, is the true setting for continued dialogue and for the general extension and appreciation of its fruits, and so for progress towards that goal which is Christ’s will – the restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life.
8. Our call to this is one with the sublime Christian vocation itself which is a call to communion; as St. John says “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). If we are to maintain progress in doctrinal convergence and move forward resolutely to the communion of mind and heart for which Christ prayed we must ponder still further his intentions in founding the Church and face courageously their requirements.
9. It is their communion with God in Christ through faith and through baptism and self-giving to Him that stands at the centre of our witness to the world, even while between us communion remains imperfect. Our divisions hinder this witness, hinder the work of Christ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 77) but they do not close all roads we may travel together. In a spirit of prayer and of submission to God’s will we must collaborate more earnestly in a “greater common witness to Christ before the world in the very work of evangelisation” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, ibid.). It is our desire that the means of this collaboration be sought: the increasing spiritual hunger in all parts of God’s world invites us to such a common pilgrimage.
This collaboration pursued to the limit allowed by truth and loyalty, will create the climate in which dialogue and doctrinal convergence can bear fruit.
While this fruit is ripening, serious obstacles remain both of the past and of recent origin. Many in both communions are asking themselves whether they have a common faith sufficient to be translated into communion of life, worship and mission. Only the communions themselves through their pastoral authorities can give that answer. When the moment comes to do so, may the answer shine through in spirit and truth, not obscured by the enmities, the prejudices and the suspicions of the past.
10. To this we are bound to look forward and to spare no effort to bring it closer: to be baptised into Christ is to be baptised into hope – “and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us” (Rom. 5:5).
11. Christian hope manifests itself in prayer and action – in prudence but also in courage. We pledge ourselves and exhort the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Anglican Communion to live and work courageously in this hope of reconciliation and unity in our common Lord.
From the Vatican, 29 April 1977
The time had now come for the end of the Archbishop’s visit with Pope Paul. The Holy Father accompanied Archbishop Coggan to the entrance of the Pauline Chapel where they had a final and very cordial conversation.
In the evening there was a reception for the Archbishop in the rooms of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. During the reception Archbishop Coggan was able to meet a number of the higher officials of the Roman Curia. At the end of the day the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity gave a banquet for the Anglican visitors. Also invited to the banquet were Cardinals Knox and Philippe, Archbishops Benelli and Casaroli.
During their last morning in Rome the Archbishop and his suite visited the excavations under St. Peter’s and then made a visit of St. Peter’s Basilica itself.