.- In advance of Pope Benedict XVIâs trip to the U.K., the head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity has acknowledged âdifficultiesâ in Catholic-Anglican relations. However, he said the papal visit will âstrongly affirm the close bondsâ between the two church bodies. He pointed to Cardinal Newman as a guide.
Speaking in a Thursday statement, Archbishop Kurt Koch said that although the September 16-19 visit is the first state visit of a Pope to Great Britain, it recalls Pope John Paul IIâs pastoral visit in 1982. Pope Benedictâs predecessor prayed with the Archbishop of Canterbury and issued a joint declaration inaugurating the second phase of official dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.
âSince that time, relations between Anglicans and Catholics have been characterised by growing warmth and friendship,â the archbishop commented. He noted that many local communities now share in prayer and practical initiatives and that there are âregular and successful meetingsâ between Catholic and Anglican bishops.
Catholic-Anglican relations possess a ârealistic acknowledgment of difficulties,â he remarked.
âThe tragic divisions of the Reformation will resonate particularly when the Pope is in Westminster Hall, where St. Thomas More was tried for his loyalty to the See of Rome,â Archbishop Koch predicted.
Disputes within the Anglican Communion have also created âdifficulties,â which in part have been responsible for Pope Benedictâs offer of the Anglican Ordinariate. In the archbishopâs view, these issues must be seen âin the broader context of the common witness of Roman Catholics and Anglicans.â
This witness will be âmost profoundly symbolizedâ when Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury meet at Lambeth Palace and then kneel together in prayer in Westminster Abbey before the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor.
According to the archbishop, the beatification of Cardinal Newman is a âpositive momentâ for ecumenical relations. While Cardinal Newman converted to âthe fullness of faithâ in the Catholic Church, he was always grateful to the Church of England as the instrument of Godâs providence in his life. Newman also acknowledged the âprofoundâ influence of Anglican theologians and clergymen.
The pontifical council president cited as âwholly relevantâ the close of Cardinal Newmanâs âApologia Pro Vita Suaâ in which he said that Catholics in England must have the attitude of âassisting and sustainingâ the Church of England and must work together to preach Christian principles and doctrines.
Cardinal Newman was guided by âthe unchanging witness of the Churchâ and not subject to âfashion or convenience.â
âHis example encourages Christians of all traditions to be involved today with courage, integrity and faithfulness to the Gospel in building a society that welcomes, nourishes and promotes all its members ... Cardinal Newman represents the great tradition of faith, intellectual rigour, and imagination that are the inheritance of all the British people,â Archbishop Koch concluded, expressing hope that the deeper aspects of the papal visit will not be obscured in coverage of the visit.