Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Anglican primate Archbishop Rowan Williams held a press conference today in London to say that the newly announced structure for Anglicans to join the Catholic Church will not harm ecumenical dialogue between the two Churches.
Earlier on Tuesday morning at the Vatican, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), announced that Pope Benedict has approved the creation of ‘Personal Ordinariates’ which will allow Anglicans to enter into communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining some aspects of the “distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.”
These ordinariates will be formed, “as needed, in consultation with local Conferences of Bishops, and their structure will be similar in some ways to that of the Military Ordinariates which have been established in most countries to provide pastoral care for members of the armed forces and their dependents throughout the world,” the cardinal prefect explained.
Meanwhile, at the offices of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Archbishops Nichols and Williams jointly stated that the declaration by the Pope “is further recognition of the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition” which grew out of the last 40 years of dialogue.
The two prelates also stressed that today's announcement does not mean an end to ecumenical dialogue between the two Churches. “With God’s grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened,” the joint statement said.
However, the announcement was not without some friction, which Archbishop Williams revealed in a letter he sent today to the Anglican bishops around the world.
“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,” the Anglican archbishop wrote.
He also shared how he is responding “in the local English context,” drawing upon his joint statement with Archbishop Nichols.
On the Vatican front, Archbishop Williams wrote, “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.”