LONDON, SEPT. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Christians should not hesitate to proclaim the uniqueness of Christ, Benedict XVI today told the leader of the Anglican Communion. Though Christianity is called to be inclusive, this shouldn’t come at the expense of Christian truth, he says.
The Pope made this reflection when he met with Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace this afternoon. The Holy Father is on the second day of his four-day trip to the United Kingdom, which began with an enthusiastic welcome Thursday in Scotland.
Despite talk of Anglican-Catholic tensions during the lead-up to the trip, today’s meeting between the two leaders reflected their friendship and common ecumenical commitment.
The Pontiff, in fact, noted his intention not to “speak of the difficulties that the ecumenical path has encountered and continues to encounter.”
“Rather,” he said, “I wish to join you in giving thanks for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue during the 40 years that have elapsed since the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission began its work. Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth.”
The Anglican Communion itself is facing deep rifts over two main issues: the role of women, particularly in the episcopal ministry, and the moral issues associated with homosexual activity, including the possibility of homosexual “marriages” and active homosexuals in ministry.
In November of last year, Benedict XVI wrote an apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” which allows for personal ordinariates for Anglicans wishing to enter in groups into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Pope’s greetings today, though, focused on the journey toward closer unity between the two Christian confessions.
He noted Archbishop William’s reference to a meeting nearly 30 years ago between their predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie.
“[I]n the very place where St. Thomas of Canterbury bore witness to Christ by the shedding of his blood, they prayed together for the gift of unity among the followers of Christ. We continue today to pray for that gift, knowing that the unity Christ willed for his disciples will only come about in answer to prayer, through the action of the Holy Spirit, who ceaselessly renews the Church and guides her into the fullness of truth,” the Pontiff said.
Benedict XVI went on to reflect about the changing context of ecumenical dialogue since Pope John XXIII and Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher met in 1960.
The culture itself is now more distant from its Christian roots, he observed, and there is an “increasingly multicultural dimension of society” that brings the opportunity to encounter other religions.
“For us Christians this opens up the possibility of exploring, together with members of other religious traditions, ways of bearing witness to the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness, leading to the practice of virtue in our personal and social lives,” the Holy Father reflected.
But he cautioned against a watering-down of Christian truth.
“[W]e Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ,” he said. “[…] In fidelity to the Lord’s will, […] we recognize that the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth.”
Cardinal Newman’s example
Benedict XVI then referred to Cardinal John Henry Newman as an example for ecumenical relations. Cardinal Newman was raised an Anglican and spent half his life in that Communion before converting to the Catholic Church. The Pope will beatify the cardinal on Sunday, his last day in the United Kingdom.
“[W]e celebrate a churchman whose ecclesial vision was nurtured by his Anglican background and matured during his many years of ordained ministry in the Church of England,” the Pontiff said of the cardinal. “He can teach us the virtues that ecumenism demands: on the one hand, he was moved to follow his conscience, even at great personal cost; and on the other hand, the warmth of his continued friendship with his former colleagues, led him to explore with them, in a truly eirenical spirit, the questions on which they differed, driven by a deep longing for unity in faith.”
The Pope called on Archbishop Williams in that “same spirit of friendship,” to “renew our determination to pursue the goal of unity in faith, hope, and love, in accordance with the will of our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-30381?l=english