Williams warns of inhumane future

by
23 November 2006

Never mind the art: Cardinal Kasper and Dr Williams (left and right, respectively, in the foreground) in the Sistine Chapel with bishops and others this week ACNS/ROSENTHAL

Never mind the art: Cardinal Kasper and Dr Williams (left and right, respectively, in the foreground) in the Sistine Chapel with bishops and others th...

by Rupert Shortt, in Rome

WESTERN CIVILISATION may be entering an era as “brutally anti-humanist” as the Dark Ages, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned at the start of his visit to Rome this week. If so, he told an audience at the city’s largest monastic house, the Rule of St Benedict could help to provide a cure.

WESTERN CIVILISATION may be entering an era as “brutally anti-humanist” as the Dark Ages, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned at the start of his visit to Rome this week. If so, he told an audience at the city’s largest monastic house, the Rule of St Benedict could help to provide a cure.

His lecture, “Benedict and the Future of Europe”, at Sant’Anselmo, home of the principal liturgical institute in Rome, was one of two substantial addresses given by the Archbishop. He was due to meet Pope Benedict XVI at an audience in the Vatican yesterday morning.

The two were expected to discuss divisions between Anglicans and Roman Catholics over women’s ministry and gay clergy; but the encounter also included a joint prayer session at the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, and a private lunch. Its menu was expected to feature theology more than church politics.

The Sant’Anselmo lecture set the tone of a far more substantial programme than that of Dr Williams’s last visit, three years ago.

“We live in a climate where both work and leisure seem to be pervasively misunderstood; where both appear regularly in inhuman and obsessive forms,” Dr Williams argued. “Time is an undifferentiated continuum in which we either work or consume. Work follows no daily or even weekly rhythms, but is a 24-hour business, sporadically interrupted by what is often a very hectic form of play.” People were being infantilised, he went on, by “a vast industry that purports to guess our wants before we ask”.

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He argued that culture must amount to more than an endless round of “producing and being entertained”. It should be “the context in which humanity is allowed to grow”. The Rule of St Benedict asked “what the rhythm of life is that will best set human beings free to advance towards the joy for which they are made”, and “what the style of authority is that will enable ‘faith beyond resentment’”.

The Rule of St Benedict had much to teach those with a narrowly materialist outlook, Dr Williams said. “We have to ask what it is that economics sustains — its own business, or an environment of human development, intelligence, and awareness?”

Later in the lecture, Dr Williams defined good governance as consisting in “an engagement with the other that is neither static confrontation nor competition, but the production of some sort of common language and vision”. A society that took this insight to heart would display greater tolerance of migrants, among other virtues.

Yesterday evening, a few hours after his encounter with the Pope, Dr Williams was to give his second main address: a lecture, “Secularism, Freedom and Faith”, at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

His schedule before the papal audience included a dinner hosted by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on Tuesday evening; and a visit to the Sant’Egidio community (an award-winning humanitarian centre) for a service to commemorate the martyrdom of seven members of the Anglican Melanesian Brotherhood (Features, here and here).

Dr Williams is also taking advantage of a new development in relations with Rome which gives Anglican representatives discretion to be in liaison with individual Vatican dicasteries (departments) rather than operate only through Cardinal Kasper’s office (News, 17 November). The Archbishop is due to visit the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples today, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith tomorrow.

As on previous occasions, Dr Williams is being accompanied by his RC opposite number, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor: they and their entourages are staying at the English College. On their appointment, all cardinals receive a so-called titular church in Rome; Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s is Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. He and Dr Williams are due to preside jointly at an Anglican service of evening prayer there this afternoon.

On Sunday afternoon, Dr Williams will celebrate the eucharist in Santa Sabina, a fifth-century church on the Aventine Hill, next door to Sant’Anselmo, now the headquarters of the Dominicans.

The Archbishop’s wife, Jane, and ten-year-old son, Pip, are both with him. The three are due to visit Rome’s Catacombs during a spell of free time over the weekend.

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