Outreach to former Anglicans not model of ecumenism, says Archbishop of Canterbury 

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service 
  • November 20, 2009
{mosimage}ROME - Calling Pope Benedict XVI's arrangement for Anglicans wanting to become Roman Catholics "the elephant in the room," the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion said the Pope's move was nothing groundbreaking from an ecumenical viewpoint.

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury spoke Nov. 19 at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University at a conference marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, a pioneer in Catholic ecumenism.

While the archbishop's address focused on efforts over the last 40 years by the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion to promote full unity, he said he obviously had to mention Pope Benedict's apostolic constitution establishing "personal ordinariates" — structures similar to dioceses — for Anglicans wanting to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The papal document was released by the Vatican Nov. 9. It allows the former Anglicans to continue using their liturgies; permits the ordination as Catholic priests of Anglican clergy, including married men; and establishes a governing council of priests to advise and, in some cases, make decisions along with the local ordinary.

Williams said the constitution was "an imaginative pastoral response to the needs of some" Anglicans who felt their church was moving in the wrong direction, particularly over questions related to the ordination of women and the acceptance of homosexual behaviour. Allowing the Anglicans to maintain elements of their Anglican heritage "shows some marks of the recognition that diversity of ethos does not in itself compromise the unity of the Catholic Church," the archbishop said.

However, he said, it does not fulfill one of the goals of ecumenism, which is to bring Christian churches into full unity without one denomination absorbing another.

The papal document, he said, "does not build in any formal recognition of existing ministries or units of oversight or methods of independent decision-making," such as an Anglican synod that would include laity, "but remains at the level of spiritual and liturgical culture, we might say."

Williams said, "It remains to be seen whether the flexibility suggested in the constitution might ever lead to something less like a chaplaincy and more like a church gathered around a bishop."

In addition to speaking at the conference, Williams was to meet with leaders of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and other Vatican officials and was scheduled to meet Nov. 21 with Pope Benedict.

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