After brief encounter — ‘not derailed’

06 April 2011

by Ed Thornton

THE Archbishop of Canterbury said this week that there was “no for-ever-and-a-day prohibition” on Anglican and Ordinariate congregations’ shar­ing buildings, but “pastoral sen­sitivities” meant that it was too early to happen yet.

Speaking after the fourth bilateral meeting of Anglican and Roman Ca­tholic diocesan bishops, which was held at St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, on Monday, Dr Williams said: “I don’t think there’s any objection in principle [to sharing buildings], but if you have a congregation that’s just divided, it’s not ideal that they’re sharing the same church.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vin­cent Nichols, reiterated his view (News, 19 November) that “the simplest solution” was best, “and the simplest solution is that those who are coming into the [Roman] Ca­tholic Church come and use our buildings”.

Dr Williams said that “the routine work of contact and exchange between our two Churches has gone on without being in any sense derailed” by the Ordinariate. The meeting had received “a report from the liaison group that we’ve already set up on questions that arise in connection with the Ordinariate”.

Archbishop Nichols said that the Ordinariate was “not some kind of alternative ecumenism” and would not be a distraction from “the overall ecumenical aim of full visible communion”.

The meeting of the bishops also discussed the Big Society. Some of them had expressed “confusion as to what the Big Society actually is”, Archbishop Nichols said.

“Is it about volunteering? Is it about the role of intermediate insti­tutions in society? Is it about trying to reshape enterprise so that it has much more openness to social development and social responsi­bility?”

Dr Williams said that the bishops had expressed “the hope that we get a bit more strategic direction from Government . . . some sort of indica­tion of what sort of public ser­vices are so strategically important that they need ring-fencing”. Particular mention had been made of youth services, which were “deeply under threat” in some regions.

Dr Williams said that he and Archbishop Nichols had “met jointly with the Prime Minister and other people in Government” and in­tended to “continue that dialogue”. “Be­cause the whole [Big Society] agenda is itself developing all the time, we are not always very much clearer; so we keep on asking the questions.”

Archbishop Nichols said the bishops had also expressed “pro­found anxiety about the impact of government spending cuts both at national and local level. Local authorities are taking up different positions in the implementation of cuts. Some are cutting mainline services, some are cutting support staff.”

The Churches wanted “to engage more directly with local authorities” and find out how they can respond “especially to those in need, locality by locality”.

Anglican and RC bishops have been meeting in this way since 2006; they last met in September at Lambeth Palace, during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK.

The third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) will meet for the first time at the Monastery of Bose in Italy from 17 to 27 May.

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