Tuesday, October 20, 2009

London Crosses the Tiber?

"Crossing the Tiber" is a phrase used by Catholics to refer to Protestants and Orthodox Christians who have converted to Roman Catholicism. After the Great Schism of 1054 tore Christianity in half and the further split caused by Luther and Calvin's Protestant Reformation, Christian Unity was broken. Yet, in the last century progress has been made in bringing individuals and communities back to Rome. Reunion with the Orthodox Churches is a complex theological discussion on the proper role of the Bishop of Rome and of the filioque clause of the Nicean-Constantipolitan Creed. This is a discussion between Churches who are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Reunion with the Protestant communities is far more fragmented. The group that Rome has had the most fruitful dialogue with is the Anglican Church. Anglicans view themselves as the "Via Media" between Rome and the Protesant Reformers. But in recent years, Anglicanism has splintered. There are three groups within the Anglican Communion. The Traditionalists or Anglo-Catholics are often described as more Catholic than the Romans in their liturgy and spirituality. Their theology is undeniably Christian and very Catholic. The Evangelicals are probably the largest and most significant group and while morally they have much in common with Rome, theologically they are closer to the reformers than they are to Rome. The third group are the Modernists who have rebelled against Traditional Christianity and who are a dying breed.

Today there was breaking news out of Rome and London that indicates a possible reunion with the Traditionalists of the Anglican Communion is upon us. It will likely be many more years, but thousands of Anglicans will likely find a home across the Tiber in Rome. That the Archbishop of Cantebury would himself make this annoucement indicates to the degree the Modernist drive within the Anglican Communion's western branches has alarmed him. It has alarmed even the Queen of England, the head of the Church of England.

Pope Benedict XVI has announced a Personal Ordinariates for the Anglicans. Father Z covers the issue from a theological perspective far better than I, and I defer to his discussion on the issue here and here. When the Episcopal Church in the US began to ordain women, Anglican parishes and Anglican Clergy began to cross over to Rome and with special dispensation, were ordained as Catholic priests.

Below one can read the JOINT STATEMENT issued by the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.


Today’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.

Pope Benedict XVI has approved, within the Apostolic Constitution, a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.

The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution.

The Apostolic Constitution is further recognition of the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition. Without the dialogues of the past forty years, this recognition would not have been possible, nor would hopes for full visible unity have been nurtured. In this sense, this Apostolic Constitution is one consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing cooperation. The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.

With God’s grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England’s House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission. Joint days of reflection and prayer were begun in Leeds in 2006 and continued in Lambeth in 2008, and further meetings are in preparation. This close cooperation will continue as we grow together in unity and mission, in witness to the Gospel in our country, and in the Church at large.

London, 20 October 2009

+ Vincent Gerard Nichols

+ Rowan Williams

Cardinal Newman would be very pleased to see this. I would argue that this has something to do with his prayers.

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