Reports about plans of imminent reunification of the Anglican and Catholic Churches under the Pope are largely exaggerated, said the two chairmen of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
Archbishop John Bathersby, Catholic co-chair of IARCCUM, and Bishop David Beetge, Anglican co-chair, released a statement yesterday in response to an article in The London Times, which reported that the two communions would likely reunite very soon. The Times report was based on a leaked IARCCUM document.
“While it is encouraging that a document of this kind can be produced and that practical day-to-day cooperation between Catholics and Anglicans can be strengthened, talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated,” the two bishops said in their statement.
The leaked document in question, titled "Growing Together in Unity and Mission," is being published as an agreed statement of IARCCUM. It is not as an official statement of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, the bishops clarified.
“It is being put forward to foster discussion and reflection, as the statement clearly states,” they said.
The 42-page statement was recently completed by IARCCUM, and is scheduled to be published by the commission as soon as a Catholic commentary to accompany the document has been completed; an Anglican commentary has already been prepared for publication.
The bishops expressed their regret that the document’s contents were prematurely reported “in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalizes its conclusions.”
The document identifies the level of agreement which has been reached by Anglican and Catholic dialogue in the last 35 years, “but is also very clear in identifying ongoing areas of disagreement, and in raising questions which still need to be addressed in dialogue,” the bishops wrote.
As such, the proposal to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the Pope needs to be put in the “proper perspective,” the bishops stated.
The second part of the document sets forward proposals for concrete initiatives, identifying aspects of common mission, common study, common prayer which are for the most part already permitted according to authoritative sources of the Catholic Church and the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
The Times article also speculates about the Catholic Church's response to a possible schism within the Anglican Communion.
The two bishops responded: “The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has consistently spoken of the value of the Anglican Communion remaining a communion, rooted in the Apostolic faith.”
They drew from a 2004 statement, issued by the pontifical council, which reads: "It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree."
“We hope that when published, ‘Growing Together in Unity and Mission’ invites a good deal of discussion, and that it will be a helpful instrument on the long journey towards full communion which has been the stated goal of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations for the past 40 years,” the bishops concluded.