" The pope prayed that God might "hasten the day" when "together we may discover the forms" in which the Petrine ministry "will be accepted by all Christians as a sign of love." "
"Carey said Anglicans had long treasured "legitimate diversity" but are now discovering the bonds of unity and authority "which allow us to balance our diversity." Anglicans now must address the pope's role as "a focus for unity," he said."
From ........... National Catholic Reporter
December 27, 1996 / January 3, 1997
POPE, CAREY MEET AMID ECUMENICAL THAW
By GERARD O'CONNELL Special to NCR
ROME Ñ Despite strong divisions over the question whether women should be priests, relationships between Anglicans and Roman Catholics got a surprising boost when Pope John Paul II met earlier this month with the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
So successful was the meeting that the pope and George L. Carey, archbishop of Canterbury, agreed to enter into "further consultations," beginning in January. Their goal will be to explore ways to move ahead together in a quest for full, visible unity.
The two churches, divided since the days of Henry VIII, have begun tentative efforts toward union only in recent years. Those resulted in a promising report from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, an international dialogue group, which claimed to have reached agreement on theological questions related to Eucharist and ministry.
But relations soon cooled and then grew tense. Some called it "the winter of ecumenism."
First, the response from the Vatican to the international commission's report was disappointing. Then, in a highly controversial move the Anglican Communion, at a Lambeth Conference in 1988, voted to allow its individual member churches to decide whether to accept female priests. The Episcopal church in the United States had already jumped the gun, approving female priests 11 years earlier. The Church of England voted to allow women into the priesthood in 1992.
The pope had strongly urged Anglicans to keep women out of the priesthood, and indeed, some who opposed female priests defected to Catholicism after their view was defeated.
The pope and Carey met privately in 1992 when Carey visited Anglicans in Italy. By all accounts, that meeting was courteous but offered little in the way of progress.
The recent meeting, by contrast, was proclaimed as a landmark.
The climate had begun to change hy Dec. 3, when Carey arrived in Rome. The pope, having issued his important encyclical on ecumenism last year, seemed determined to do all he could to promote Christian unity. Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, was working hard on many fronts trying to promote the ecumenical dialogue.
The new climate was evident from the beginning. The Vatican provided Carey with a guard of honor and a state limousine sporting pennants of Canterbury and the Holy See. On their first evening in Rome, the pope gave a warm welcome in his private library to Carey and his party. The two men chatted easily, and the pope said such occasions were a reminder that "even in our sad separation, Anglicans and Catholics have not ceased to be brothers and sisters in the Lord."
Friendliness and warmth characterized subsequent meetings as well.
Carey said he affirmed to the pope "the absolute commitment both of myself personally and also of the Anglican Communion to the full, visible unity of God's church."
He and the pope met four times in all, including a 45-minute private conversation. In a public exchange of gifts, the pope gave Carey a gold pectoral cross and gave silver crosses to other Anglican bishops.
Carey presented the pope with a communion wafer holder made of ewe wood and inscribed "In recognition of friendship." The pope then invited Carey and his wife, Eileen, to lunch with him in the papal apartments.
Later, the pope and Carey attended solemn vespers in the Church of St. Gregorio al Celio. (In 596, this saint, Pope Gregory the Great, sent St. Augustine to England to preach the gospel to Anglo-Saxons. Augustine set up his see in Canterbury.)
Near the end of the ceremony, in an emotion-filled moment, the two Christian leaders walked slowly to the altar of St. Gregory. Each lit a candle and prayed silently for unity.
In his homily at St. Gregory's and in an earlier address, the pope praised the work of the international Anglican Catholic dialogue over some 30 years. It had produced "some of the fruits hoped for," he said, including a rediscovery of "the real though imperfect communion," and "a new spirit of cooperation." It had also led, he said, to theological agreement previously "thought not possible."
Nevertheless, the common quest for unity "is proving more difficult than expected," the pope said, as "new disagreements," including ordination of women, emerged.
"The path ahead may not be altogether clear to us, but we are here to commit ourselves to following it," the pope said. The international dialogue commission meanwhile is completing its study on authority in the church, and the pope said he hoped this would provide "great help" in addressing "new areas of disagreement."
The pope, in turn, stressed "the need to reach an understanding of how the church authoritatively discerns the teaching and practice which constitute the apostolic faith entrusted to us." Disagreement over ordaining women had highlighted that need, he said.
The pope prayed that God might "hasten the day" when "together we may discover the forms" in which the Petrine ministry "will be accepted by all Christians as a sign of love."
Carey, in his public statements during the three days, also praised the international commission's work. Not only had it identified "fundamental agreement" on the Eucharist, ministry and the doctrine of justification by faith, it was also making "substantial progress" on the question of authority, he said.
Anglicans cannot deny their history, Carey said, which, developing out of the Reformation, was "not so much a tragedy as a rediscovery" Ñ a rediscovery of the Bible and its authority, the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith and of the local church, of the ministry and priesthood as service.
Yet, Carey recognized "sins and failures" on both sides and said he and the pope could lead their people to unity only by "the generosity to forgive, the willingness to tolerate diversity in matters other than the biblical core of our faith, and the humility to accept gifts from one another that may surprise and confound us."
Carey said Anglicans had long treasured "legitimate diversity" but are now discovering the bonds of unity and authority "which allow us to balance our diversity." Anglicans now must address the pope's role as "a focus for unity," he said.
At St. Gregory, the pope and archbishop signed a Common Declaration, committing themselves to work for full visible unity. They also encouraged the international dialogue group to "continue and deepen" their conversations and gave it a wider mandate to deal not only with issues connected to "present difficulties" but in all areas where differences remain.
Carey described himself as a "man of optimism" as a result of his warm welcome to Rome. "The commitment to go on fills me with hope," he said.
[picture caption] - Anglican Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury talks with Pope John Paul II at an evening prayer service Dec. 5 in Rome.
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