BY CINDY WOODEN IN VATICAN CITY
ANGLICANS and Catholics should witness to the faith they share and work together to promote Christian values in the world, but they also must be realistic about issues still dividing them, says a recent document by Anglican and Catholic bishops.
Growing Together in Unity and Mission was published last month by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, made up of bishops from the two communities.
While leaked copies of the completed document were already circulating in February, the official release was delayed until a commentary commissioned by the Vatican and one commissioned by the Anglican Communion were finalised.
The international bishops' commission was formed in 2001 to develop a document summarising 35 years of official AnglicanCatholic theological agreements. to encour age wider study of the agreements and to demonstrate how much Catholics and Anglicans share by promoting joint activities such as prayer services. study, Christian witness and social action.
However, the final document said that "difficulties in the life of the Anglican Communion", particularly the tensions caused by the ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, the blessing of same-sex unions in British Columbia and the acceptance of women bishops in some Anglican provinces, have forced Anglicans and Catholics to recognise that progress toward full unity will be slower than many of them had hoped.
Mgr Donald Bolen of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said that the Anglican-Roman Catholic commission "tried to be honest in its work, not wanting to claim more agreement that really exists and not wanting to cover up areas of ongoing difference where further work is needed-. The Vatican believes the document "is worthy of serious study and reflection", he said, and authorities hope it will be "an instrument to help Anglicans and Catholics on the long road toward reconciliation".
The document said that "even in a time of uncertainty, the mission given us by Christ obliges and compels us to seek to engage more deeply and widely in a partnership in mission, coupled with common witness and joint prayer".
Commission members wrote that while it may not be the time to launch bold new initiatives, "we believe that it is the time to bridge the gap between the elements of faith we hold in common and the tangible expression of that shared belief in our ecclesial lives".
Mgr Bolen said: 'That is not pious rhetoric, but a sense that even in a situation where there is internal division and tension, there is a responsibility to continue our ecumenical commitment and to proclaim the Gospel together in whatever ways are responsible and appropriate."
The first part of the document discusses "the faith we hold in common", drawing upon agreements reached in the official theological dialogues conducted by the AnglicanRoman Catholic commission.
Catholics and Anglicans recognise each other's baptism and can profess together the points of faith summarised in the creed, it said. They believe Christ calls people together in the Chindi, has sent the Church on mission to the world and that the Eucharist is the sign of their communion. , The document also acknowledged important areas of faith and Church teaching where Anglicans and Catholics differ, including areas of Church structure and decisionmaking, the universal primacy of the pope, the limits to be placed on sharing the Eucharist before full unity is achieved and the validity of each other's ordinations, particularly given the ordination of women.