Archbishop challenges Catholic Church


THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, speaking in Rome last night, appeared to throw down a challenge to the Catholic Church when he suggested that issues which separate Anglicans and Catholics may not be as “fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume”.

Dr Williams was speaking at a congress in Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian university, called to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Dutch cardinal Johannes Willebrands, the first head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian unity.

In the conclusion to his speech, Dr Williams said: “All I have been attempting to say here is that the ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full – and then to ask about the character of the unfinished business between us.

“For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain.

“And if it isn’t, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?”

Making his first visit to Rome since the Holy See last month announced the creation of new ecclesiastical structures with which to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged that he could not ignore recent developments in ecumenical relations.

“Of course, there is the elephant in the room,” he said.

“It is impossible to open up these issues without some brief reference to issues of very immediate interest in the lives of the Anglican and Roman Catholic communions,” he added.

“The current proposals for a Covenant between Anglican provinces represent an effort to create not a centralised decision-making executive but a ‘community of communities’ that can manage to sustain a mutually nourishing and mutually critical life, with all consenting to certain protocols of decision-making together.”