Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What do we do with the Anglicans?

I came about this interesting and faith nurturing episode in Father James Reuter SJ's essay entitled "Vatican City" in the University of the Philippines Los Banos centennial coffee table book. This episode of wartime internment tells us what Anglicanism is all about. This episode should be noted by Catholics and Episcopalians in the Philippines.

When the Americans surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, Allied nationals were interned in several camps. The largest of these was the one at the University of Santo Tomas. The clergy, religious and seminarians of different Christian denominations were interned at the UP Los Banos camp. The Catholic clergy (the largest group among them) were billeted in a separate barracks from the Protestants.  The nuns were billeted separately from all the men. The Japanese jailers asked "What do we do with the Anglicans?"

According to Fr Reuter the small group of Anglicans protested to the Japanese about being sent with the rest of the Protestants. The Japanese had no idea what these Anglicans meant and they sought the opinion of the Jesuit superior who said they were Protestants. And yet the Anglicans insisted they were Catholic and for that they stood 3 hours under the burning sun.

In the end, the Japanese arrived at an ingenious solution. They asked the Anglican clergy if they had wives and they admitted they had. The Japanese said "Catholic no wife, Protestant wife" " You Protestant"!

To me the episode demonstrates the faithful witness of the Catholic identity by the Anglicans. The Japanese could have had them shot or beheaded right there and then! This was war. If I were in their place, I could just told the Japanese I was plainly "Protestant"!

Fr Reuter writes that "The Anglicans were close to the Catholics. If you saw the Anglican ministers say Mass, you would think it was a Catholic Mass. The only difference was the language. The Roman Catholics said Mass in Latin and the Anglicans said Mass in English. Aside from that there was nothing that separated us. We were children of God." [Emphasis mine]

More than 70 years separate this small group of Anglicans from us, the Ordinariates and  Anglicanorum Coetibus. Under the Apostolic Constitution, the Ordinariates can have married priests not just at the start but forever. And in the Ordinariates the Anglicans will have the Mass in English (but this is not news really. Catholics have the Mass now in English!). But we can expect the Anglican Ordinariates to have the Mass in an English that is from an earlier use and provides a refreshing difference from the more Modern English of the Mass.

Father Reuter at 95, frail but young at heart still, is the last surviving cleric who was incarcerated. In the essay and other essays on the Los Banos camp he writes about the conversion of the most sadistic Japanese jailer a "Lt Konishi" who was eventually captured by the Americans, tried for war crimes and hanged. Before he was hanged, Konishi received the Sacraments and as Father Reuter notes "went straight to heaven" Such is the mysteries of the Divine workings even in the hell of a concentration camp.

I also found a link on a Roman Catholic site which posts once more the Easter homily of an Episcopal priest whose father was one of the Anglican clerics Fr Reuter wrote about. You can read the reflection on the "Undamaged Chausuble" here.

"What do we do with the Anglicans?" was a question that the Popes have faced. Of course the Popes did not mean to incarcerate them. Benedict XVI gave the now historic answer!

And if this small group of Anglicans were still with us. They would likely have accepted the Papal offer.

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