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Murphy-O’Connor warns of ‘ecumenical shadow’

31 July 2008

by Bill Bowder

Together: Cardinal Walter Kasper and Dr Williams make their way to the Nikaean Club dinner on Tuesday. The event honoured the ecumenical delegates at the Conference ACNS/ROSENTHAL

Together: Cardinal Walter Kasper and Dr Williams make their way to the Nikaean Club dinner on Tuesday. The event honoured the ecumenical delegates at ...

A SHADOW has fallen over the relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who is also a former co-chairman of the Anglican- Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), told bishops at a special meeting at the Lambeth Conference last Friday.

After the meeting, the co-chairman of the proposed ARCIC III, one of the Archbishops and Co-Presiding Bishops in New Zealand, the Most Revd David Moxon, questioned whether there would be a successor to ARCICs I and II.

“I am waiting for Cardinal Kasper to report the name of the co-chair of the ARCIC group, if and when the Vatican decides to do so.”

Archbishop Moxon said that, when the way for ecumenism seemed “impossible or very difficult, never underestimate the way we can be surprised by the Holy Spirit”. Friendship was important, but: “We need to move from affective relationships to effective relationships, to see what we can do together, and go from there. The glass is half full.”

A preliminary report on ARCIC III had been prepared, and would be discussed in Rome in November, said Canon Gregory Cameron, the ecumenical officer at the Anglican Communion Office.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor promised on Friday: “Dialogue will continue in some form. Even if we sometimes find it hard to discern just how to go forward, we cannot give up on seeking the unity Christ wills.”

He said that ARCIC I and ARCIC II had produced a number of agreed statements, but those took time to be accepted by the whole Church, and had sometimes been rejected. During the life of ARCIC II, however, a shadow had begun to spread across the relationships between the Churches because of strains over the ordination of women priests and women bishops — ordinations that were accepted by some Anglicans and not by others. That uncertainty had caused Rome fresh uncertainty over Anglican orders, the Cardinal said.

But hidden in the shadow caused by such issues was a more fundamental question about differing understandings of the nature of the Church. Was it “a loose federation”, or was it “a more closely knit body”, he asked.

The discussions at the Lambeth Conference were “about the degree of unity in faith necessary for Christians to be in communion, not least so that they may be able to offer the gospel confidently to the world. Our future dialogue will not be easy until such fundamental matters are resolved with greater clarity.”

ARCIC had been “ahead of the field” in seeing how crucial ecclesiology was to ecumenism.

Nevertheless, there was “substantial consensus” on the eucharist and ministry, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. That was “money in the bank”. Anglicans and Roman Catholics could “sometimes work together with greater confidence in the faith they shared”.

Also last Friday, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Metropolitan Chrysostomos II, expressed gloom about ecumenical relations. “The issue of women bishops and human sexuality has stopped progress. It is going backwards because it has also created disunity amongst yourselves.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to the “odd analogy” made by Cardinal Ivan Dias, after he said in a plenary session on Tuesday of last week that Christians who lived “myopically in the fleeting present, oblivious to our past heritage and apostolic traditions” could be suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” (News, 25 July).

“Our past is not an embarrassment we have to put behind us. It is a resource from which we grow,” Dr Williams said. Ecumenical participants had assured him: “Your issues are everyone’s issues.”

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