Anglican Primate Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI. Have reaffirmed the common will to continue ecumenical talks. In a face-to-face meeting at the Vatican on Saturday, the two church leaders discussed recent developments in bilateral relations.
Anglican Primate Rowan Williams turned down at least one offer from the Vatican during his weekend visit to Rome: that of a conversion to the Catholic Church. While the face-to-face meeting between the white-bearded Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Benedict XVI was about. also about the Holy See's recent offer to Anglican believers who want to convert to Catholicism in unison. But both Williams and the Vatican made it clear that this was not meant to be a new path for ecumenism. The top-level meeting of the 59-year-old Welshman and the 82-year-old Bavarian was under close ecumenical scrutiny. On 20. October, the Vatican had said that the Catholic Church would in the future create a home for those Anglicans who seek communion with the pope but otherwise want to keep their tradition. A new administrative structure, called personal ordinariates, was specially invented for this purpose. It was an announcement with surprise value. The briefing by the prefect of the faith, William Levada, took place at a time when the Vatican's ecumenical representative, Cardinal Walter Kasper, was far away in Cyprus. To be sure, Williams had not discussed the possibility of defection, set forth in the papal constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus," dated 4. November, as a necessary clarification welcomed. Within the Anglican community, the innovation – and in part also the positive attitude of its own primate – caused controversy. The pact with the Vatican seemed to some to be too simple a way out of internal conflicts over homosexual and female ministers. Concise commentary on the new state of affairs In his first appearance during his three-day visit to Rome, Williams provided a brief, pithy commentary on the new state of affairs: the inclusion of "former Anglicans" shows that some diversity within the Catholic Church does not militate against unity, the primate said at a meeting honoring Catholic ecumenism pioneer Cardinal John Willebrands (1909-2006). For Williams, the logical next step would be for the Holy See to recognize diversity outside its own fold as well. In the Anglican's view, at any rate, the open doctrinal questions are not necessarily "as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally ame and claim". The burden of justification for the separation lies with the Catholics. In any case, the Primate also does not want to make any concessions on the ie of women's ordination. Cardinal Kasper, whom Williams calls a "friend," at the same event rejected conflating defections with ecumenical search for church unity. The constitution is not a new Vatican model for the abolition of denominational divisions. Ecumenism, according to Kasper, is neither about expanding one's own sphere of influence nor about a diplomatic compromise based on the lowest common denominator. Will to continue the dialogue That also seems to be the tenor of the face-to-face conversation between Benedict XVI. and to have been the primate. According to what the Vatican communicated following the meeting on Saturday, both reaffirmed the will to continue the dialogue. The conversation, characterized as "cordial," was also about common challenges. Both sides see the need for cooperation in a secularized world. The topic may have been dictated by recent developments, but the visit of the Anglican leader himself was on the calendar long before the Constitution was announced. The fraternal relations that the visit was intended to strengthen do not seem to have suffered any lasting damage in recent weeks. Preparations for the next official dialogue meeting continue this month. Within a year, Williams and the pope are also likely to meet again in person: In the fall, Benedict XVI. expected on the British island – there, where King Henry VIII. Renounced Rome in 1534, thus founding the Anglican Church.