Archbishop Williams, accompanied by his wife and son, arrived in Rome today with the eight-person Anglican delegation he is heading. The visit, which will end on November 24th, marks the 40th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey - from March 22 to 24, 1966 - and aims "to express the importance the Anglican Communion attributes to relations with the Catholic Church and to the theological dialogue that began with the creation, announced during Paul VI's meeting with Archbishop Ramsey, of the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC)."
The central moment of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit will be his private meeting with the Holy Father on Thursday, November 23. After that meeting, the Pope and the archbishop will each deliver an address, and a joint declaration will be signed in the presence of the members of the Anglican delegation and of the Catholic representatives who accompanied the archbishop to Rome, headed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.
After the audience, Benedict XVI and Archbishop Williams, will go to the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel where they will pray together.
On November 22, the Anglican archbishop and Cardinal Walter Kasper, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will visit the Sistine Chapel where they will pray together and recollect the meeting there 40 years earlier between Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey.
The press release states that during the course of the visit, Archbishop Williams and Cardinal Kasper will examine the current state of Catholic-Anglican relations, the planning and content of a new cycle of dialogue in the ARCIC following its most recent publication "Mary, Grace, and Hope in Christ" in May 2005, the work of the International Anglican - Roman Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) established in 2000, and the ecumenical situation in general."
On November 24, several delegates will lead an ecumenical celebration of Vespers at the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. And on the afternoon of Sunday, November 26, prior to his departure, Archbishop Williams will preside at an Anglican liturgy in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill.
One of the key issues for discussion will surely be recent decisions by Anglican/Episcopalian dioceses to attempt the ordination of women bishops. In the last year Cardinal Kasper made clear to the archbishop that if the Church of England were to promote such ordinations, the tone of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church would change.
"Ecumenical dialogue in the true sense of the word has as its goal the restoration of full Church Communion,” the Cardinal said in June. “That has been the presupposition of our dialogue until now. That presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to episcopal office."
Above all, he continued, all hopes of intercommunion would end. "The shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance,” Kasper said, “instead of moving towards one another we would coexist alongside one another."
.- The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity announced today, the itinerary for the primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, who is making an official visit to the Vatican this week.