The Anglican Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Holy See, the Very Reverend David Richardson, has commented on Catholic pleas for unity within the Anglican Communion, saying such actions are a positive reminder of God’s desire for the unity of the church.
Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Australia for World Youth Day, urged the Anglican Church to avoid schism, while Cardinal Ivan Dias, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, warned in a speech to the Lambeth Conference that disunity poses dangers to evangelism.
Rev. Richardson, who also directs the Anglican Center in Rome, said such comments show the Catholic Church has “a lot of investment” in the unity of the Anglican Church. “The last thing they want to see is a church structurally split,” he explained, speaking in an interview posted on the Lambeth Conference website.
From the point of view of the Catholic Church, he thought, schism is “a really much more serious issue than the discipline or moral theological issues with which we’re wrestling.”
Catholic-Anglican dialogue has been taking place for decades and has produced several key documents from both the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission.
These documents, Rev. Richardson said, were exciting because of the questions they pose.
“What is the faith? Is the apostolic faith something that was parceled up and completed at Chalcedon or is it something that is still emerging? That is a theological question that is part of the wrestle,” he commented. “That’s an exciting thing that the two parties are committed to continuing.”
In Rev. Richardson’s view, Catholic concerns about controversial issues within the Anglican Communion, such as women bishops or homosexuality, are part of the normal difficulties of ecumenical dialogue.
“Ecumenical processes never run smoothly, and life moves on,” he said. “While you’re writing a report, at the end of it you find that something different has taken place. It may be that women have been ordained or a Pope has died, or an Archbishop of Canterbury has resigned.”
“We’re an evolving institution,” he said.