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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


The third phase of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) will meet on May 17 to 27, 2011 at the Monastery of Bose in northern Italy. According to Vatican Radio, the theme for ARCIC III is on Church and Communion. ARCIC has been meeting since 1970 as a result of ecumenical declarations from Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey.

The first ARCIC focused on the Eucharist and how Catholics and Anglicans understood this. The resulting statement was broadly Catholic but the Vatican sent its reservations. The second ARCIC came out with statements on the ministry of the Roman Pontiff as a universal primate and the role of the Virgin Mary. However the Anglican difficulties on the Marian dogmas and Anglican rejection of papal authority came to the fore.  As for the universal primacy of the Bishop of Rome, ARCIC suggested that Anglicans and Roman Catholics receive this primacy even before corporate reunion is achieved. Pope John Paul II told the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie that this primacy now exists over the Anglican Church even if the Anglicans refuse to receive it.

When Anglicans decided to ordain women as priests, this signified a departure from Apostolic order as the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Oriental) never ordained women. The Orthodox prelates have always told the Anglicans that the ordination of women will result in an impaired communion. And in this they have been proven correct. The Roman Church strongly concurred much later in Cardinal Walter Kasper's address to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Women's ordination as priests led to the Anglican communion considering ordaining women as bishops. This is considered by the Orthodox and Roman Catholics as even a further departure from Apostolic order and tradition. Women's ordination has effectively stopped  Orthodox theological and ecumenical discussion with the Anglicans. The Roman Church continued with ARCIC II while  recognizing that corporate reunion was impossible.  When the American Episcopal Church ordained an openly practicing homosexual as bishop, Pope John Paul II suspended ARCIC meetings. The Orthodox have stuck to their original decision.

Thus ARCIC III meets in a ecumenical landscape that is vastly changed. For instance I believe that there is no Anglican Communion to speak of but rather two Anglican Communions. The Anglican Ordinariatres remains as a talking point in ARCIC III even if the Roman Catholics and Anglicans say they won't talk about it!

These statements from the Roman Catholic side by Msgr Mark Langham tells us really the limits of institutional ecumenism

How will this work be received by the rest of the Church?
This is an important question. Ecumenical dialogues have never seen themselves as an end in themselves but part of a bigger process which involves reception at grass roots level, at leadership level and in the way the two churches work and pray together. 

How will the new Ordinariate affect your work?
We’ve always said the path of traditional ecumenical dialogue is different from that of individual or group conversion.

My take is that ecumenism at the grass roots level will be heard and that is at the root of the Ordinariate. Rome just took years to respond! The quote of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman remains loud and clear. "The voice of the faithful will be heard!"

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