Anglican-Catholic Ecumenical Working Group Launched

A 35-Year Dialogue Continues

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2001 ( Ecumenical dialogue took another step forward when John Paul II gave his backing to the new Anglican-Roman Catholic Working Group, which held its inaugural meeting in Rome last weekend.

Before going to Rome, the group´s members, bishops of the two Christian confessions, met in London with Anglican Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury.

When John Paul II received the participants in this new initiative on Saturday, he referred to «the many genuine advances of ecumenism in recent years, of which the new group gives evidence.»

The Pontiff recalled that the first such working group began in 1966, at the initiative of Paul VI and Anglican Archbishop Michael Ramsey, and resulted in the establishment of the Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).

Following his visit to Canterbury in 1982, John Paul II and Anglican Archbishop Robert Runcie established a second ARCIC.

The third ecumenical step was taken in 1996, when the Pope and the present Archbishop of Canterbury published a Joint Declaration, inviting Catholics and Anglicans «to repent of the past, to pray for the grace of unity, and to open themselves to God´s transforming power.»

In May 2000, a decisive meeting of Anglican and Catholic Bishops took place in Mississauga, Ontario, when it was decided to create the new ecumenical working group. It was that group that came into being this past weekend.

The Pope told the bishops that they «are especially well qualified to consider the next practical steps that might be taken, not only to consolidate the gains already made, but also to lead us to new depths of communion on the way to that fullness of unity that is the will of Christ.»

«It is clear that disunity has impaired our mission in the world,» the Holy Father said. «In these troubled times, the world needs more than ever the common witness of Christians in every area, from the defense of human life and dignity to the promotion of justice and peace.»

«When discouragement threatens or new difficulties arise, we need to focus once more upon the Spirit´s power to do what seems to us impossible,» he added. «At times of apparent pause, we must wait for the Holy Spirit to do what we ourselves cannot do.»

Last January, the names of the members of the new working group were published. The team will work under the chairmanship of Bishop David Beetge, Anglican bishop of the Highveld, South Africa; and Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane, Australia.

The other Catholic members are Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle, Washington; Bishop Anthony Farquhar of the Down and Connor Diocese of Ireland; Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, England; Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia, Nigeria; and Father Peter Cross of Melbourne, Australia.

Monsignor Timothy Galligan of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is Catholic co-secretary.

The other Anglican members are Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia; Bishop Edwin Gulick of Kentucky; Archbishop Peter Kwong, primate of Hong Kong; Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, England; and Dr. Mary Tanner of England.

The Anglican co-secretary is Canon David Hamid of the Anglican Communion Office in London.

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