Letter: To the Bishops of the Church of England, and the members of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion

 

 

20 October 2009

The Vatican has announced today that Pope Benedict XVI has approved an ‘Apostolic Constitution’ (a formal papal decree) which will make some provision for groups of Anglicans (whether strictly members of continuing Anglican bodies or currently members of the Communion) who wish to be received into communion with the See of Rome in such a way that they can retain aspects of Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition.

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage, and we await the text of the Apostolic Constitution itself and its code of practice in the coming weeks. But I thought I should let you know the main points of the response I am making in our local English context – in full consultation with Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales – in the hope of avoiding any confusion or misrepresentation. I attach a copy of the Joint Statement that I agreed to make alongside the Archbishop of Westminster, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. It can also be found on my website.

It remains to be seen what use will be made of this provision, since it is now up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution; but, in the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression. It is described as simply a response to specific enquiries from certain Anglican groups and individuals wishing to find their future within the Roman Catholic Church.

The common heritage of the achievement of the ARCIC agreed statements, and the IARCCUM principles for shared work and witness (in Growing Together in Unity and Mission, 2007), remain the solid ground both for our future co-operation as global communions, and our regional and local growth in common faith and witness. For those who wish to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in the near future, this announcement will clarify possible options, and we wish them God’s strength and guidance in their discernment. Meanwhile our ecumenical relationships continue on their current cordial basis, regionally and internationally.

+ Rowan Cantuar:

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