Christopher Hill, who is Bishop of Guildford and chairman of the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph Pope visit: Anglicans and Catholics can share a mission.
…My hopes as an Anglican bishop are twofold. Pope Benedict is a formidable philosopher and theologian. He has spent much of his ministry analysing the ebb-tide of faith in modern Europe. This is also a matter Archbishop Rowan Williams has devoted much attention to.
Instead of slogans on buses pressing an atheist cause, or the reverse, I hope the visit will promote real dialogue between those of faith, those in doubt and those who deny.
Secondly, Pope Benedict will meet his bishops and the Church of England bishops at Lambeth Palace. Anglican and Catholic bishops regularly meet but doing so with the Bishop of Rome will, I believe, reinforce and further encourage our common mission. Differences will remain but what we have in common far outweighs them.
At the grass-roots level, SueM blogged about Protest, prejudice – and the Pope.
I am looking forward to the Pope’s visit to the UK. For a start I am interested to see what reactions it will actually evoke among the British people and in the media. I am expecting to see hostility, appreciation and indifference, but I am not sure which of these reactions will predominate. Another thing that I am looking forward to is the variety of programmes, news articles and radio discussions focusing on the Papal visit. I think that some of these may serve to raise some interesting questions, not only about the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, but also about the changing role and nature of religion in British society and the huge shift we have seen in attitudes to religious faith and institutionalised religion.
I understand the reasons why many people object to the attitudes and approach of the Roman Catholic (and Anglican) church…
I am hoping the level of coverage (and even protest) that we see will be proportionate, sensible and balanced. I do expect that we will see some excellent and challenging debate; I hope we will not see too much anti Catholic prejudice, disrespect or ignorance, but I won’t be surprised if we do!
Church Mouse writing in An Anglican response to the Papal visit offers four principles for Anglicans:
1. Despite some theological differences, we should treat the Roman Catholic church as our brothers and sisters in Christ, and as such we should share the experience of the visit with them in the spirit of Christian unity.
2. We should not seek to “take sides” in any of the Catholic debates on reforms of the Church. It would be unhelpful to all within the Catholic Church if one side was seen to be ‘backed’ by sections of the Church of England, not to mention hypocritical on our part, given the divisions in our own Church.
3. We should defend the Catholic Church and the Pope from the more extreme anti-Christian attacks on him, which are in reality attacks on all Christians. Bishop Christopher Hill explained that “Today’s opposition focuses on Pope Benedict, gaining some support in the light of the terrible cases of clerical abuse, but intellectually it represents an attack on all Christians, indeed on faith.” Mouse reckons that is true to a large extent, as the most viscous attacks are not based on reason and logic, but on hatred.
4. We should use the opportunity afforded by the visit to move discussion of the Ordinariate from behind closed doors to out in the open. Mouse’s guess is that there are very few people who will be leaving the Church of England under the scheme, but to have the threat held beneath the surface is damaging to the church.