Ecumenical Greeting Delivered by the Representative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, The Revd Canon Donald Bolen on behalf of the President, His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper to the 13th ACC Meeting.
Your Grace, dear members of the Anglican Consultative Council, dear friends in Christ,
I send warm greetings to you as you meet to reflect on aspects of the life and mission of the Anglican Communion and, in particular, on the Windsor Report and its various recommendations.
Over the past four decades, the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion have made sustained efforts to clarify and overcome the causes of our separation, seeking always to the next step which we can take towards greater communion. Five years ago, in Mississauga, Canada, Anglican and Catholic bishops took stock of what we had achieved to that point and noted that our partial communion should ‘no longer be viewed in minimal terms… but is even now a rich and life-giving, multifaceted communion.’
As you know, last month we sought to take another step towards the goal of full communion, with the launch of ARCIC’s most recent agreed statement, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. While at this stage the document remains the work of ARCIC and is not an official statement of the Anglican Communion or the Catholic Church, it has nonetheless been a moment to give thanks to God for having brought us this far. As we now invite a wide-ranging reflection on the text, it is our hope that it will serve as an instrument of reconciliation, providing further theological foundations upon which our relations can be strengthened.
As a result of our growing relationship and an increased awareness of our common calling, we have come to learn as dialogue partners that the actions and decision of each of us has a significant impact on the other. Two years ago, developments in the Episcopal Church USA and in the Anglican Church of Canada raised serious questions, from both moral and ecclesiological perspectives, regarding the degree of faith we share. In December, 2003, the decision was taken to put on hod the principal project of IARCCUM – work towards a common statement attempting to identify our common faith on matters addressed by ARCIC documents.
During the period followed, we were encouraged by the attentiveness to ecumenical concerns which has characterized the Anglican Communion’s discernment of a way forward. Close communication and friendly relations have been maintained between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Lambeth Palace, the Anglican Communion Office and the Anglican Centre in Rome. As well known, at the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, we jointly established a sub-commission of IARCCUM which prepared a document – submitted in due course by the Archbishop to the Lambeth Commission – reflecting on the current ecclesiological situation in the Anglican Communion in the light of the work of ARCIC over the past 35 years. When the Windsor Report was published, again the Archbishop of Canterbury invited written reflections on its possible ecumenical implications, and asked that I lead a PCPCU delegation to meet him and Anglican Communion staff at Lambeth Palace to carry forward the discussion.
We have been able to speak with an openness and directness which in the past would have been impossible. In our communications, I have stressed my appreciation for the ecclesiological foundations set forward by the Windsor Report, noting that they are largely consistent with the koinonia ecclesiology articulated in the agreed statements of ARCIC. The consequences which the Report draws from these foundations are also helpful to our ecumenical relations, notably the interpretation of provincial autonomy in terms of interdependence, thus ‘subject to limits generated by the commitments of communion’ (n. 79). This is consistent with the Gifts of Authority’s understanding that maintaining and strengthening the koinonia and a commitment to interdependence are constitutive aspects of the Church and vital for its unity.
When reflecting on what would help our relations to flourish, I find it useful to think of the Windsor Report and the communiqué of the most recent Primates’ Meeting as a starting point rather than a point of arrival. We believe that the Windsor’s principal recommendations would have a positive ecumenical impact if received and implemented. I would like to assure you, as I did the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘in a spirit of ecumenical partnership and friendship, we are ready to support this process in whatever ways are appropriate and requested.’ Above all, it would be the reception of the Windsor’s ecclesiology, concretized by tangible decisions to give it an authoritative character, which would enhance our understanding of the Anglican Communion precisely as a communion, which is the premise on which we have proceeded in our dialogue since the Second Vatican Council. Any strengthening of the bonds of communion which are consistent with the apostolic faith as witnessed in the Scriptures, the early councils and the patristic tradition, is bound to draw us more closely together.
In affirming the traditional understanding of marriage and endorsing the ecclesiology of the Windsor Report, the communiqué of the February Primates’ Meeting has given us an indication of the direction the Anglican Communion wishes to move, and has encouraged us to believe that our dialogue can continue to make progress. Work on the IARCCUM common statement project is scheduled to resume with a drafting meeting in September, and it is hoped that this will provide us with a constructive means to receive important elements from the corpus of ARCIC II texts. Meanwhile, discussions have begun towards a third phase of theological dialogue.
As you meet in Nottingham, it is the hope and prayer of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity that the Holy Spirit will strengthen the bonds of communion among you, and that renewed by this same Spirit, we will all be able to join increasingly in living out our calling to be light for the world and salt for the earth.
Walter Cardinal Kasper