VATICAN CITY (CNS): Vatican concerns about how some recent decisions of the United States Episcopal Church will impact the search for full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity are echoed in a reflection by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion.
Writing on July 27 about the Episcopal Church’s recent general convention, Archbishop Williams repeatedly referred to the need to keep in mind the ecumenical implications of local Church decisions in addition to their impact on the unity of the Anglican Communion as a whole.
In a statement on July 29, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity noted Archbishop Williams’ concern for maintaining the unity of the Anglican Communion through common faith and practice based on Scripture and tradition.
The Vatican office “supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the Church”, the statement said.
“It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion,” it said.
The Episcopal Church’s general convention adopted two resolutions that may further strain relations within the Anglican Communion and with the Catholic Church: One affirmed that all ordained ministries, including the office of bishop, are open to all the baptised, including gays and lesbians; the other called for the collection and development of theological resources for the blessing of same-sex unions.
Last year the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of leaders from around the Anglican Communion, strongly urged all members of the communion to respect moratoriums on ordaining openly gay bishops and on blessing same-sex unions.
Pope Benedict XVI and his top ecumenical officer have said the Episcopal Church’s position on homosexuality and its ordination of women as priests and bishops made full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity appear impossible.
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper told the Lambeth Conference last year that what was at stake “is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ himself”.
While recognising the Episcopalians’ desire to respond to what they saw as a pastoral need, he said the Catholic Church was convinced that its teaching that homosexual activity was sinful “is well-founded in the Old and in the New Testament” as well as in Christian tradition.
And, the cardinal said, the Catholic Church also believed the fact that Christ chose only men to be his apostles meant the Church was not authorised to ordain women.