Responding to the announcement of a new apostolic constitution to assist Anglicans in entering the Catholic Church, Cardinal Francis George has said the provision will serve the unity of the Church. An Episcopalian spokesman said the full implications of the action are still being studied and ecumenical dialogue will continue.
On Tuesday Cardinal William Levada announced that an apostolic constitution had been prepared to respond to the “many requests” from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful who wanted to enter full communion with the Catholic Church. The ecclesiastical structure will preserve elements of Anglican traditions and could help hundreds of thousands of Anglicans become Catholics.
“The USCCB stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country,” Cardinal George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said in a Tuesday statement.
Echoing Cardinal Levada, he explained that the new Anglican provision responds to a number of requests from groups of Anglicans seeking “corporate reunion.” He said the provision also recognizes the desire of some Anglicans and Episcopalians to live the Catholic Faith “in full, visible communion with the See of Peter” while also retaining some elements of their liturgical, spiritual and ecclesial traditions which are “consistent with the Catholic faith.”
Cardinal George described the provision as being “at the service of the unity of the Church.” He said it calls the faithful to join in Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one” (Jn 17:21) in the quest for “greater communion” with all baptized Christians.
“For forty-five years, our Episcopal Conference has engaged in ecumenical dialogue with The Episcopal Church, which is the historic Province of the Anglican Communion in North America,” the cardinal’s statement concluded. “The Catholic Bishops of the United States remain committed to seeking deeper unity with the members of The Episcopal Church by means of theological dialogue and collaboration in activities that advance the mission of Christ and the welfare of society.”
Episcopal Bishop Christopher Epting, the Church’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, issued a Tuesday afternoon statement concerning the provision. Speaking on behalf of the Episcopal Church, he said the Church is “in dialogue” with the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and will continue to “explore the full implications” the action will have upon ecumenical relations.
“The announcement reflects what the Roman Catholic Church, through its acceptance of Anglican rite parishes, has been doing for some years more informally,” Bishop Epting’s statement said. “We in the Episcopal Church continue to look to the Holy Spirit, who guides us in understanding of what it means to be the Church in the Anglican Tradition.”
The bishop said the Episcopal Church continues to remain in dialogue with the Catholic Church through the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation (ARCIC) and the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the USA (ARC-USA).
His statement closed by describing the Episcopal Church as working with other Anglican provinces and with ecumenical and interfaith partners to “promote God’s reign on earth.”