Anglican Invites Pope to England

Rowan Williams Encouraged by Comments on Ecumenism

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ROME, APRIL 25, 2005 ( The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury is encouraged by Benedict XVI’s comments in support of ecumenism, and extended an invitation to him to visit England.

Rowan Williams met briefly with the Pope today during a papal audience for representatives of the Christian denominations and other faiths. The meeting was attended by Cardinal Walter Kasper and Father Don Bolen of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

«What has encouraged us on this visit is two things,» Dr. Williams said later at a press conference at the English College in Rome. «One is that, of course, Pope Benedict has gone out of his way to underline his sense of the priority of ecumenical work. He has spoken of being servants of unity, and we have taken that very much to heart as we have listened.

«But the second theme, which I think came through very clearly in the magnificent homily he preached at the inaugural Mass was a theme of united Christian witness, a witness to the fact that — as he said in that homily — ‘the Gospel does not ask us to become less than human but more deeply human.'»

The Anglican primate appeared at the press conference with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster.

Of his meeting with Benedict XVI, the Anglican said: «It was a meeting at which a large number of ecumenical delegates were present, so it was not possible to speak in any great depth. But the Pope and myself were able to exchange a few words, and promised to pray for each other, at his suggestion, as we moved forward in our ministries.

«I was very glad to be able to extend to the new Pope an invitation to England, and to get to know the Church of England whenever that is possible, although we are all aware this will not be the only invitation he will have received in the last 24 hours or so.»

The Anglican prelate offered a perspective on the life of Joseph Ratzinger, the cardinal who would become the new Holy Father.

«I see that there are three phases in the life of the man who is now Pope Benedict,» Dr. Williams said. «As a theologian, originally in Germany, he wrote some extraordinarily positive and abidingly fruitful things about the nature of the Church and the nature of the Christian faith. Some of the semi-popular writing he did in the 1970s, especially, I still find extraordinarily fertile.»

«The second phase,» he said, «is one in which he is charged professionally in his work here at the Vatican with doctrinal precision. And he has constantly struggled, in ways in which of course people have found problematic at times, for clarity of definition.»

«He is now being asked to undertake a third task,» the Anglican observed. «How he will perform that we do not know, but he has given signals of a real willingness to take it forward in fellowship with others in the light of the late Pope’s ‘Ut Unum Sint,’ drawing others into the conversation about how the Petrine ministry is to be exercised.»

Dr. Williams added: «It seems to me that the events of recent weeks, the death and the funeral of John Paul II and the events around the inauguration of this weekend, have shown a kind of foretaste of a worldwide fellowship of people gathered for worship in a way that has somehow gone around the difficulties of doctrinal definition. It is as if we have been given a glimpse of other levels of unity and my own feeling is that is the level at which he will seek to work. That is certainly my prayer.»

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