Unity Faith and Order - Dialogues - Anglican Roman Catholic
The Common Declaration by Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Donald Coggan
From the Vatican, 29 April 1977
- After four hundred years of estrangement, it is now the third time
in seventeen years that an Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope embrace
in Christian friendship in the city of Rome. Since the visit of Archbishop
Ramsey eleven years have passed, and much has happened in that time to
fulfil the hopes then expressed and to cause us to thank God.
- As the Roman Catholic Church and the constituent Churches of the
Anglican Communion have sought to grow in mutual understanding and Christian
love, they have come to recognize, to value and to give thanks for a common
faith in God our Father, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit;
our common baptism into Christ; our sharing of the Holy Scriptures, of
the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, the Chalcedonian definition, and
the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance for many
centuries with its living traditions of liturgy, theology, spirituality
- At the same time in fulfilment of the pledge of eleven years ago
to ‘a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient
common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed’ (Common
Declaration, 1966) Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians have faced calmly
and objectively the historical and doctrinal differences which have divided
us. Without compromising their respective allegiances, they have addressed
these problems together, and in the process they have discovered theological
convergences often as unexpected as they were happy.
- The Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission has produced
three documents: on the Eucharist, on Ministry and Ordination and on Church
and Authority. We now recommend that the work it has begun be pursued,
through the procedures appropriate to our respective Communions, so that
both of them may be led along the path towards unity.
The moment will shortly come when the respective Authorities must evaluate
- The response of both Communions to the work and fruits of theological
dialogue will be measured by the practical response of the faithful to
the task of restoring unity, which as the Second Vatican Council says ‘involves
the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike’ and ‘extends to
everyone according to the talents of each’ (Unitatis Redintegratio,
para. 5). We rejoice that this practical response has manifested itself
in so many forms of pastoral cooperation in many parts of the world; in
meetings of bishops, clergy and faithful.
- In mixed marriages between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, where the
tragedy of our separation at the sacrament of union is seen most starkly,
cooperation in pastoral care (Matrimonia Mixta, para. 14) in many places
has borne fruit in increased understanding. Serious dialogue has cleared
away many misconceptions and shown that we still share much that is deep-rooted
in the Christian tradition and ideal of marriage, though important differences
persist, particularly regarding remarriage after divorce. We are following
attentively the work thus far accomplished in this dialogue by the Joint
Commission on the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages.
It has stressed the need for fidelity and witness to the ideal of marriage,
set forth in the New Testament and constantly taught in Christian tradition.
We have a common duty to defend this tradition and ideal and the moral
values which derive from it.
- All such cooperation, which must continue to grow and spread, is
the true setting for continued dialogue and for the general extension and
appreciation of its fruits, and so for progress towards that goal which
is Christ's will - the restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental
- Our call to this is one with the sublime Christian vocation itself,
which is a call to communion; as St. John says, ‘that which we have
seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship
with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ’ (1
John 1:3). If we are to maintain progress in doctrinal convergence and
move forward resolutely to the communion of mind and heart for which Christ
prayed we must ponder still further his intentions in founding the Church
and face courageously their requirements.
- It is their communion with God in Christ through faith and through
baptism and self-giving to Him that stands at the centre of our witness
to the world, even while between us communion remains imperfect. Our divisions
hinder this witness, hinder the work of Christ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, para.
77) but they do not close all roads we may travel together. In a spirit
of prayer and of submission to God's will we must collaborate more earnestly
in a ‘greater common witness to Christ before the world in the very
work of evangelization’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, ibid.). It is our desire
that the means of this collaboration be sought: the increasing spiritual
hunger in all parts of God's world invites us to such a common pilgrimage.
This collaboration, pursued to the limit allowed by truth and loyalty,
will create the climate in which dialogue and doctrinal convergence can
bear fruit. While this fruit is ripening, serious obstacles remain both
of the past and of recent origin. Many in both communions are asking themselves
whether they have a common faith sufficient to be translated into communion
of life, worship and mission. Only the communions themselves through their
pastoral authorities can give that answer. When the moment comes to do
so, may the answer shine through in spirit and in truth, not obscured by
the enmities, the prejudices and the suspicions of the past.
- To this we are bound to look forward and to spare no effort to bring
it closer: to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into hope - ‘and
hope does not disappoint us because God's love has been poured into our
hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us’ (Rom 5:5).
- Christian hope manifests itself in prayer and action - in prudence
but also in courage. We pledge ourselves and exhort the faithful of the
Roman Catholic Church and of the Anglican Communion to live and work courageously
in this hope of reconciliation and unity in our common Lord.
Donald Cantuar Paulus PP. VI
[Information Service 34 (1977/II), pp. 4-5; The Final Report (London:
CTS/SPCK, 1982), pp. 119-122]