Pope Sees "Serious Difficulties" on Path Toward Catholic-Anglican Unity

Receives Archbishop of Canterbury in Audience

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II told the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury at a weekend audience that “we must … recognize that new and serious difficulties have arisen on the path to unity.”

The Pope made that observation Saturday when he received Rowan Williams, primate of the Anglican Communion, at the Vatican.

“As we give thanks for the progress that has already been made, we must also recognize that new and serious difficulties have arisen on the path to unity,” the Pope said in his English-language address to Dr. Williams.

“These difficulties are not all of a merely disciplinary nature; some extend to essential matters of faith and morals,” he added. He did not elaborate on the point.

On Friday, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that the Anglican Communion’s ordination of practicing homosexuals is a problem affecting its relations with the Catholic Church.

Otherwise, the first visit of the new primate confirmed the cordial personal bond between the Pope and the Anglican leader. Dr. Williams, 53, thanked the Pope for the gift of a pectoral cross, sent from the Vatican when he took over the post at Canterbury.

After the audience, Cardinal Kasper told a press conference that the acceptance of practicing homosexuals as Anglican pastors would mean a break in the proclamation of Christian ethics.

Dr. Williams has called a meeting in two weeks time of Anglican representatives worldwide to analyze the controversial appointment by the Episcopalian Church (the Anglican branch in the United States) of a divorced homosexual as its bishop in New Hampshire.

The Pope explained to the Anglican leader at the audience: “We must reaffirm our obligation to listen attentively and honestly to the voice of Christ as it comes to us through the Gospel and the Church’s apostolic tradition.”

“Faced with the increasing secularism of today’s world,” he added, “the Church must ensure that the deposit of faith is proclaimed in its integrity and preserved from erroneous and misguided interpretations.”

Speaking to journalists after his meeting with the Pope, Dr. Williams said that he would relay to the Anglican summit the deep concern that the Vatican has over the issue of homosexuality.

“We are conscious of the ecumenical implications of what has been done,” he said. “We shall need to consider those very carefully. We have, I think, in these days, listened hard to what has been said to us.”

The quest for full unity, the Pope concluded in his address, would “lead to a greater understanding and a deeper charity” and “a strengthening of peace in the world.”

Saturday’s visit by the Anglican leader was his first to the Vatican since his installation last February. Referring to the Pope, Dr. Williams told journalists that the “most important impression that I would want to share from my meeting today is of that extraordinary and indomitable spirit and will, which lives within him.”

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