CANTERBURY, England, JULY 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Westminster says he is not skeptical about the ecumenical dialogue going on between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor affirmed this Friday when he addressed the Lambeth Conference — the Anglican once-a-decade meeting under way through Aug. 4.
The cardinal looked at the history of the dialogue between the two groups, focusing on the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.
He acknowledged that the initial progress made by that commission brought greater expectations than successive steps have elicited. “The initial hope had been that some concrete intermediate steps on the way toward full communion might result,” the prelate recalled.
When the commission met again, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor affirmed, the atmosphere had begun to change. The cardinal noted, however, that an emerging sense of the importance of ecclesiology has been key to the process.
“How do we understand the Church? […] Is it a loose federation with a common history and family kinship? Is it a more closely-knit body with developed structures of authority? Moreover, with what instruments does the Spirit enable the Churches to reach binding decisions where necessary? […] These, and questions like them, have emerged in most of our ecumenical dialogues and they have become increasingly pressing within the ecclesial lives of our dialogue partners as well,” he said.
The cardinal went on to note that such questions of ecclesiology and communion are issues that Anglicans now face within their denomination. Some Anglican bishops have boycotted the Lambeth conference over debate about homosexual bishops and marriages and the episcopal ordination of women.
The cardinal said that the reflection from ARCIC II “touches not only on what we need to resolve together but also on those very issues that Anglicans are now grappling with as a communion.”
The cardinal concluded his address by affirming that the ecumenical efforts between Catholics and Anglicans have been worthwhile.
“It is 40 years since the Malta Report set Anglicans and Catholics on the way towards unity,” he said. “Throughout these years, the Catholic Church has always sought dialogue with the Anglican Communion as a whole, with all the challenge that your treasured diversity can sometimes bring to the table.
“So our Church takes no pleasure at all to see the current strains in your communion — we have committed ourselves to a journey toward unity, so new tensions only slow the progress. But they do seem to concern matters that are very important. These discussions are about the degree of unity in faith necessary for Christians to be in communion, not least so that they may be able to offer the Gospel confidently to the world. Our future dialogue will not be easy until such fundamental matters are resolved, with greater clarity.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor affirmed that the ecumenical labor is necessary, given that it is Christ’s will that Christians be united.
“I have said many times that I believe the path to unity is like a road with no exit for those who genuinely seek unity and are also seeking the conversion it requires,” he said. “That’s because I know it is Christ’s will that we be one, and however long it takes that has to be our goal. Pope Benedict again and again comes back to this as at the heart of what he is working for.”
“So I am not gloomy,” the cardinal concluded. “Dialogue will continue in some form. Even if we sometimes find it hard to discern just how to go forward we cannot give up on seeking the unity Christ wills.”