Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop and Pope sign Common Declaration

Common Declaration
of His Holiness Pope Francis
and His Grace Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury

Fifty years ago our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey met in this city hallowed by the ministry and blood of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Subsequently, Pope John Paul II with Archbishop Robert Runcie, and later with Archbishop George Carey, and Pope Benedict XVI with Archbishop Rowan Williams, prayed together here in this Church of Saint Gregory on the Caelian Hill from where Pope Gregory sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo-Saxon people. On pilgrimage to the tombs of these apostles and holy forebears, Catholics and Anglicans recognize that we are heirs of the treasure of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the call to share that treasure with the whole world. We have received the Good News of Jesus Christ through the holy lives of men and women who preached the Gospel in word and deed and we have been commissioned, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be Christ’s witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). We are united in the conviction that “the ends of the earth” today, is not only a geographical term, but a summons to take the saving message of the Gospel particularly to those on the margins and the peripheries of our societies.

In their historic meeting in 1966, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey established the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission to pursue a serious theological dialogue which, “founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed”. Fifty years later we give thanks for the achievements of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which has examined historically divisive doctrines from a fresh perspective of mutual respect and charity. Today we give thanks in particular for the documents of ARCIC II which will be appraised by us, and we await the findings of ARCIC III as it navigates new contexts and new challenges to our unity.

Fifty years ago our predecessors recognized the “serious obstacles” that stood in the way of a restoration of complete faith and sacramental life between us. Nevertheless, they set out undeterred, not knowing what steps could be taken along the way, but in fidelity to the Lord’s prayer that his disciples be one. Much progress has been made concerning many areas that have kept us apart. Yet new circumstances have presented new disagreements among us, particularly regarding the ordination of women and more recent questions regarding human sexuality. Behind these differences lies a perennial question about how authority is exercised in the Christian community. These are today some of the concerns that constitute serious obstacles to our full unity. While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred. In our trust and joy in the Holy Spirit we are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his Church. We trust in God’s grace and providence, knowing that the Holy Spirit will open new doors and lead us into all truth (cf. John 16: 13).

These differences we have named cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ by reason of our common baptism. Nor should they ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions. These differences must not lead to a lessening of our ecumenical endeavours. Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper that all might be one (cf. John 17: 20-23) is as imperative for his disciples today as it was at that moment of his impending passion, death and resurrection, and consequent birth of his Church. Nor should our differences come in the way of our common prayer: not only can we pray together, we must pray together, giving voice to our shared faith and joy in the Gospel of Christ, the ancient Creeds, and the power of God’s love, made present in the Holy Spirit, to overcome all sin and division. And so, with our predecessors, we urge our clergy and faithful not to neglect or undervalue that certain yet imperfect communion that we already share.

Wider and deeper than our differences are the faith that we share and our common joy in the Gospel. Christ prayed that his disciples may all be one, “so that the world might believe” (John 17: 21). The longing for unity that we express in this Common Declaration is closely tied to the desire we share that men and women come to believe that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to save the world from the evil that oppresses and diminishes the entire creation. Jesus gave his life in love, and rising from the dead overcame even death itself. Christians who have come to this faith, have encountered Jesus and the victory of his love in their own lives, and are impelled to share the joy of this Good News with others. Our ability to come together in praise and prayer to God and witness to the world rests on the confidence that we share a common faith and a substantial measure of agreement in faith.

The world must see us witnessing to this common faith in Jesus by acting together. We can, and must, work together to protect and preserve our common home: living, teaching and acting in ways that favour a speedy end to the environmental destruction that offends the Creator and degrades his creatures, and building individual and collective patterns of behaviour that foster a sustainable and integral development for the good of all. We can, and must, be united in a common cause to uphold and defend the dignity of all people. The human person is demeaned by personal and societal sin. In a culture of indifference, walls of estrangement isolate us from others, their struggles and their suffering, which also many of our brothers and sisters in Christ today endure. In a culture of waste, the lives of the most vulnerable in society are often marginalised and discarded. In a culture of hate we see unspeakable acts of violence, often justified by a distorted understanding of religious belief. Our Christian faith leads us to recognise the inestimable worth of every human life, and to honour it in acts of mercy by bringing education, healthcare, food, clean water and shelter and always seeking to resolve conflict and build peace. As disciples of Christ we hold human persons to be sacred, and as apostles of Christ we must be their advocates.

Fifty years ago Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey took as their inspiration the words of the apostle: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 13-14). Today, “those things which are behind” – the painful centuries of separation –have been partially healed by fifty years of friendship. We give thanks for the fifty years of the Anglican Centre in Rome dedicated to being a place of encounter and friendship. We have become partners and companions on our pilgrim journey, facing the same difficulties, and strengthening each other by learning to value the gifts which God has given to the other, and to receive them as our own in humility and gratitude.

We are impatient for progress that we might be fully united in proclaiming, in word and deed, the saving and healing gospel of Christ to all people. For this reason we take great encouragement from the meeting during these days of so many Catholic and Anglican bishops of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) who, on the basis of all that they have in common, which generations of ARCIC scholars have painstakingly unveiled, are eager to go forward in collaborative mission and witness to the “ends of the earth”. Today we rejoice to commission them and send them forth in pairs as the Lord sent out the seventy-two disciples. Let their ecumenical mission to those on the margins of society be a witness to all of us, and let the message go out from this holy place, as the Good News was sent out so many centuries ago, that Catholics and Anglicans will work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon.

In this Church of Saint Gregory the Great, we earnestly invoke the blessings of the Most Holy Trinity on the continuing work of ARCIC and IARCCUM, and on all those who pray for and contribute to the restoration of unity between us.

Rome, 5 October 2016

His Grace Justin Welby
His Holiness Francis

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JCFrobert ian williamsKateFather Ron SmithTim Chesterton Recent comment authors
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Kate
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Kate

The whole tone is that it is things the Anglican Communion is doing which prevents Union. It isn’t. The most fundamental barrier is the Catholic elevation of ministers to priests and Papal Infallibility etc. It is those sorts of areas of church governance which led to the Reformation and which remain the most intractable difficulties in the path of reunification.

DBD
Guest

“His Grace Justin Welby”?! I do wish people who bothered with this kind of nonsense did so properly. Justin Welby is not His Grace; the Archbishop of Canterbury is. It’s not personal. (Pun intended!)

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Are you sure you are not in the wrong Church, Kate? Haven’t you heard there are priests in the Anglican Communion too?

Kate
Guest
Kate

No David, we don’t have ‘priests’ in that sense. Anglicanism doesn’t have priests although very lamentably some have started using that word and worse some who use the title blur the meaning to try to ape Catholic priests but the two classes are different. It’s part of the reason why the Church of Rome doesn’t recognise the validity of Anglican “priests”: they recognise the difference even if some Anglicans try to pretend there’s not a difference.

Nicholas Henderson
Guest
Nicholas Henderson

As in the very long opening sentence Pope Gregory did indeed send Augustine to evangelise but for centuries before there was an orthodox and independent Christianity in the British Isles. This was later to be brought under the ‘control’ of Rome in the seventh century. Anglicans today need to be extremely cautious in dealing with a Church that is twenty times or more the size of their Communion, it’s not an equal partnership.

Ralph
Guest
Ralph

With deep disagreements in theological matters concerning homosexuality and ordination of women, I don’t hold out hope for unification any time soon. Despite inflicting the would of division that is still festering about five hundred years ago, the Anglican Church continues to make the wound of division fresh and deep by her embrace of pan sexuality and the ordination of women. The Catholic Church may as well be wasting its time.

Brian Ralph
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Brian Ralph

I suggest Kate you look at the 1662 Book of Common Prayer which uses “Priest” in the service of Holy Communion. Hardly very recent. I, for one, do not recognise the service as Anglican if anyone other than an ordained Priest administers the Eucharist. I was glad to move away from the Diocese of Sydney where such ideas were being widespread. I believed they should take the world ‘Anglican’ off their noticeboards as there was nothing Anglican about them.

NJW
Guest
NJW

I’m not sure how to understand the Ordinal of 1550 other than that the Church of England has ‘deacons, priests and bishops’. Jewel and Hooker seemed pretty strong on the continuity of orders in the Church of England and it was a key part on the Laudian and Restoration church that priests in the Church of England were priests.
It seems a bit of a revision of history to say that it is a recent innovation that priests in the Church of England have started calling themselves such.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Kate, if you read the preface to the Ordinal that has been in place in English and American rites since the Reformation, you’ll be unable to avoid noting that at the time of the separation of the English church from Roman obedience, the English church leadership explicitly stated its intention, not of changing, but of continuing, the three-fold ministry that had existed anciently; namely, of bishops priests and deacons. This is incontrovertible. I don’t know what your frame of reference is, but it certainly isn’t Anglican, If you prefer a more protestant view and praxis of ordained Christian ministry, plenty… Read more »

Adamm Ferrier
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Adamm Ferrier

I support any move that results in us being kinder to each other.

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

A priest is a priest, and, as NJW pointed out, *has* been a priest since whenever.

You don’t like priests?

Baptists welcome you.
Methodists welcome you.
Presbyterians welcome you.

Kate
Guest
Kate

A central feature of the Reformation was a moral and theological rebellion against the nature of Roman Catholic priesthood. Protestants instead accepted a priesthood of the people, seeing every baptised Christian as a minister, and the term priest was dropped to differentiate from priests. It is wrong, I suggest, when talking of Protestants about “lay” celebration of the Eucharist etc because baptism is seen as including ordination. Anglicanism is a compromise. We saw a benefit in retaining ordination but those ordained are presbyters, not the priests of Catholic tradition. Our presbyters are not intercessors. They cannot forgive sins, order penance… Read more »

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Thank you Kate for confirming you are in the wrong Church.

Caelius Spinator
Guest
Caelius Spinator

I would like to agree with Kate in part and disagree with Kate in part. The term “priest” is not just a matter of social cache. Early Anglicans (in the Homilies) often translated various terms as priest in Patristic texts. For them, priest and presbyter were equivalent terms. They would have never stopped using the word priest, as some do, so as not to lose continuity with the Fathers or a rather tenuous connection with the Church of the East, who they admired in Fathers like Chrysostom or Basil of Caesarea. What the Ordinal says is the truth. However, that… Read more »

Caelius Spinator
Guest
Caelius Spinator

(continued) “It is wrong, I suggest, when talking of Protestants about ‘lay’ celebration of the Eucharist etc because baptism is seen as including ordination.” I’d not go so far as that. Baptism unites one with Christ’s priesthood. In Anglicanism, I’d say that ministerial character is a legal status with mystical aspects rather than a mystical status with legal aspects (as the Roman Catholics have it). For instance, consider Article XXIII, “IT is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Dear Kate. Once again your strong anti-clerical slip is showing. I think you have a few good points to make on T.A., but, considering the fact that the Church of England enshrines the catholic tradition of the ordained priesthood – as well as the ‘priesthood of all believers’- you may, as someone has suggested here, really be in the wrong Church for your views on the ordained ministry.

David Beadle
Guest
David Beadle

The Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Anglican church, recognises the priesthood of all believers, as well as a category of those ordained to the order of Priest. Neither church recognises a notion of there being a contradiction between the two.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Ron, I find it ironic that you think Kate may be in the wrong church. Two hundred years ago, almost all ‘Anglicans’ (the name, of course, would not have been used at the time, but it will serve as a descriptor) would have thought that a person who wanted to call themselves ‘Father’ was also in the wrong church.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“In Anglicanism, I’d say that ministerial character is a legal status with mystical aspects rather than a mystical status with legal aspects (as the Roman Catholics have it).”

What an astute observation which goes right to the heart of the matter.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Dear Tim and Kate. One thing about our beloved Anglican Churches is that most of them are what might be called ‘Broad Church’; but all of them still use the (catholic) rite of ordination for ministerial priests. One reason we have bishops is to ensure that we share the ancient priestly line.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Dear Kate. Once again your strong anti-clerical slip is showing. I think you have a few good points to make on T.A., but, considering the fact that the Church of England enshrines the catholic tradition of the ordained priesthood – as well as the ‘priesthood of all believers’- you may, as someone has suggested here, really be in the wrong Church for your views on the ordained ministry.” I don’t believe that CofE does enshrine “the Catholic tradition of ordained priesthood” which is part of why the Catholic Church doesn’t recognise Anglican ordained “priests”. But more importantly if “We believe… Read more »

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Very sad as it allows Anglicans to think they share the authentic Gospel and walk in the way of salvation. The Gospel is too precious for compromise.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Strange that, on this thread, I find myself closer to the ABC *and* Bishop of Rome than I do to many of the commenters (of either extremely Protestant or extremely Roman varieties!).

“I support any move that results in us being kinder to each other”: thank you, Adamm.