On Anglicans, Britain and a Cardinalship

Cardinal-Designate Murphy-O´Connor of Westminster

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LONDON, FEB. 19, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAVVENIRE).- Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O´Connor is poised to receive a cardinal´s hat on Wednesday at the Vatican. The 67-year-old archbishop of Westminster recently spoke about ecumenism and the role of the Church in England.

From 1983 to 1989 he presided over the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and he is a personal friend of the Anglican primate, George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury.

–Q: Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor, what did you feel when you learned of your appointment as cardinal?

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: It is a great honor conferred on my person and on the whole English Catholic Church. It is an event that deepens the relations of friendship that our Church has always had with Rome. It is also a gesture of recognition of the loyalty that Catholics of England and Wales have demonstrated to Rome over centuries.

–Q: In general, Great Britain is often regarded as quite an isolationist country that goes its own way. Is this also reflected in the Catholic Church? Sometimes it seems that British Catholics feel closer to their Anglican brothers than to Italian Catholics.

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: I don´t agree. I do not think that the country is isolationist at all. I always like to stress that Great Britain is part of the European Union, which she entered many years ago.

It is true that, historically, we have always been far from the European Continent but, without a doubt, the English Church belongs to the universal Church and English Catholics feel close to Catholics of the rest of the world, not only to Italians, but also to those of other countries of the world.

It is right to say that Great Britain is ecumenical territory, that it is an ideal place to experiment with ecumenism. However, if we solidify our relations with other Christians, it doesn´t mean we are less Catholic. In fact, we have reached a point of no return in the ecumenical road, which is solidly under way.

–Q: However, it seems that there have been difficult moments on this road, in relations with Anglicans. For example, the publication of «Dominus Iesus» was received with surprise and incredulity by many bishops of the Church of England.

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: «Dominus Iesus» explains that Jesus is the clear and unique revelation of God in Jesus Christ. It uses very clear words in some of its sections and, if correctly understood, contributes to dialogue with other confessions.

The intention of «Dominus Iesus» is not to retard the ecumenical dialogue. On the contrary, ecumenism can only be built on clarity, charity, truth and love.

–Q: So you distill a positive balance from the ecumenical dialogue. However, don´t you think that the priesthood of women, which exists in the Anglican Church since 1994, has seriously retarded the road toward unity?

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: Yes, it is true, women´s priesthood has been a real obstacle in progress toward full communion with the Anglican Church. It was a real disappointment and real difficulty not only for Catholics but also for the Anglican Communion itself. It was a block in the road toward unity.

However, the ecumenical way must continue, regardless. Although the greatest obstacles might not be overcome, it is important to continue dialoguing. Even if it produces no concrete results, it is essential to share aspects of the common life of the two Christian communities.

–Q: How do you evaluate your first year as archbishop of Westminster?

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: I was bishop of Arundel and Brighton for 23 years. So I have long experience in what it means to be responsible for a diocese. It is very demanding work, which can really exhaust one, but there are many positive aspects, many good things.

–Q: Like what, for example?

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: Today the English Catholic Church has the role of moral guide for the country. It is called to be an authoritative voice in the country, which has an almost desperate need for guidance on issues that affect everyone, such as the dignity of human life.

–Q: In general, how do you see the future of the Christian Church?

–Archbishop Murphy-O´Connor: I am a man of hope and joy. My motto, since I became archbishop, is «Gaudium et Spes,» the opening words of Vatican Council II´s document on modernity.

The Catholic Church in Great Britain has a very significant part to play in Christian life; it is at the center of Christian life and this position, which obliges us to give witness, is a challenge for the future. It is important to have patience and hope, the two human talents that, in my opinion, construct the future. The difficulties the Church must face today can be an opportunity for the future.

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