INTERVIEW: ‘How Is Pope Francis Advancing Ecumenical Relations?’ ‘In Every Way,’ Says Rome’s Anglican Leader

Archbishop David Moxon Speaks to ZENIT on Efforts Being Done to Close Gap Between Christians

Pope Francis in the popemobile

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Rome’s Anglican leader says Pope Francis is advancing ecumenism in every way.

In an interview with ZENIT this week in Rome, the director of Rome’s Anglican Centre and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop David Moxon, expressed this.

In addition to exploring how the Pope is advancing these relations, Archbishop Moxon discusses how the Argentine Pontiff makes ‘ecumenical’ personable and attractive and the possibility of closer relations between all Christians much deeper and more accessible.

He also spoke of the great commonalities between Catholics and Anglicans and how work is being done to close the gap.

Moreover, the Anglican prelate speaks on his hopes for enhanced relations between Catholics and Anglicans, as well as with all Christians.

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ZENIT: We just concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Why is praying for Christian unity important?

Archbishop Moxon: Because in this way we are drawn closer to Christ in the act of praying. If Christ is in the centre of all our thoughts and prayers, in the centre of the room where we are praying, then we find ourselves closer to each other in this process, naturally.

ZENIT: How is Pope Francis advancing ecumenical relations?

Archbishop Moxon: In every way. He is beginning to advance many of the hopes and ideas of the ecumenical papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint. Also, by his own natural extroversion and genuine love for other churches and ecclesial communities he is making ‘ecumenical’ personable and attractive. There always seems to be room deep in his heart for others in this way, and this is noticed.

ZENIT:  What are your hopes for enhanced relations between Catholicism and Anglicans? 

Archbishop Moxon: I hope to see us draw closer together in terms of Christian mission in justice and development, including modern slavery and human trafficking where we can agree on so much, on climate change issues where our statements are so similar, and on liaising through networks like caritas and the Anglican Alliance. Then, there is the theological work which identified that we have around 80% of core doctrine in common. The Anglican/Roman Catholic International commission works hard on closing the gap between us in terms of remaining areas of dogmatic difference. Here there are huge challenges but we believe in the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome in the Spirit’s own way and in the Spirit’s own time. We believe there is much more we can agree on even while recognising some fundamental remaining gaps. The more we pray together about this the more these opportunities will arise.

ZENIT: And between Catholics and all Christians?

Archbishop Moxon: The Pope is making this link so much deeper and more accessible by his spirituality, his personality and his overall generosity of approach, using a clear Gospel base to motivate and understand every opportunity for closer relations, in word and deed.

ZENIT: During last week’s General Audience, Pope Francis said all Christians have a common mission to transmit God’s mercy to others, especially the poor and the abandoned. How do you believe all Christians can and should collaborate in this regard?

Archbishop Moxon:  We need to be open to the fact that no one of us has got it all together, but together each one of us can share it all. This means that we need to ask how we share information, resources and personnel in the great challenges we face. If you take any issue relating to poverty and abandonment, you see that we would individually be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, and that it needs all of us to join forces where we can. This means ecumenical and maybe interfaith networks  working together much more than we do now.

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Archbishop Moxon provided ZENIT with the reflection below:

‘Unexpected blessing’

Written 25 January 2015

Last night, Archbishop Gennadios and I were invited by Pope Francis to share in the giving of the Pontifical Blessing.

This took place in front of the 3000-strong congregation at the Papal Basilica of St Paul’s outside the Walls, the venue for the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome. We were called to the side of the Papal Throne and he said “let’s share this together”. He received his papal pastoral staff, began the prayer and raised his hand. Archbishop Gennadios (the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch) and I raised our hands also. It was incredibly moving to be part of what (I think) was an unprecedented invitation, which said far more even than the words which were actually recited.

This invitation suggested that the blessing of God and the grace of God flow through our diversity in this moment of unity. It would be wrong to read too much into what happened, but in the minutes that followed the conclusion of the service, it was the talk of the evening. To me it seems a very poignant, unforgettable, and evocative sign of our essential unity in baptism and of our desire to share the blessings of God whenever there is opportunity; to bless and be blessed because we belong to the Church of the Triune God, which is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

The power of this action was preceded by a straight-from-the-heart homily, in which Pope Francis said,

“As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. God’s mercy will renew our relationships.”

This immediately challenges Christians who aren’t Roman Catholic to respond in the same way, asking for forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and the wounds we have inflicted on the body of Christ. This mutual confession automatically brings forth a sense of forgiveness, grace, and hope and we can be closer than we were before because of this. Such a movement of grace is indeed a blessing we can all share.

In faith and hope, David

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