by JOE HUGHES
THE Anglican and Catho lic Churches are on their way to unity — but a unity which will allow each to retain its separate, individual character. This seems to be the essence of statements made at Lambeth Palace during Cardinal Wilebrand's historic stay there.
Just before his departure I asked the Cardinal, who is President of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity how near the two Churches were at present to the "organic unity" he had envisaged in his lecture in a packed Great Hall at Lambeth last week.
"If you are asking me a date, that would be impossible to give", he replied. "You will remember that in my lecture said I would not predict the near future because, I thought, here is a problem where the adage 'One sows, another reaps' is to be applied.
"Nevertheless I think we can be grateful to God and to each other for all that has been sown in the last years.
"So that if we can go ahead in the same spirit, and with a readiness also, a generosity which is necessary towards each other, then I think we may foresee that unity between us — full communion — not only is possible, because between Christians it is possible since it is the will and the prayer of Our Lord, but also that it may be achieved.
"I don't say it may be achieved by our generation, and I can't speak for the following generation, but I am confident that we are on the way."
But, I asked, was unity a certainty?
"It is a certainty if all men are obedient to God and to their duties, but I cannot give the assurance that we will always be so," he said.
"I can only be grateful for what we have done in the last 10 or 20 years and I am confident that now — it seems everywhere in Christianity — we are more conscious of this obligation, and of neglecting for so long a time our obligations, and thinking that we were being faithful in maintaining the divisions."
Organic unity did not mean that there would be a unity of organisation — which would be a human unity and would never constitute a Church, he said.
A unity in faith, and that organic unity of Which St. Paul spoke when he explained the nature of the Body of Christ, with its varied and many members, was what was desired.
As regards the Oriental Churches the Cardinal said it would be unthinkable from a theological, historical and cultural point of view for "us Westerners, Latins" to absorb the Orient.
"We would never be able to do it, and it would be absolutely against the Catholicity of the Church, the enrichment of which manifested itself in a variety of discipline, theological approach, spirituality, liturgy, etc."
The Cardinal said that he had discussed with the Arch
bishop of Canterbury various aspects of Church relations, including the subject of mixed marriages.
An international commisson was now examining the problems concerned with the general question of the theology of matrimony, its sacramental character, and the problem of marriage as relating to the Church and the State.
Dr. Ramsey said of the Cardinal's visit that personal friendships between Church leaders always helped the cause of unity. It had been possible for the two of them to plan something of the strategy for doctrinal talks between the two Communions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Cardinal had made it clear that unity did not mean absorption, and this had done much to dispel anxieties and fears that union inevitably would mean the absorption and disappearance of distinctive Anglican ways and customs.
Dr. Ramsey said he did not think Methodists felt that Anglican moves towards the Church of Rome were moves away from them. or that Catholics felt that Anglican moves towards Methodists drew away from Rome.
"The Roman Catholics and Methodists themselves have been drawing more closely together in this country," he said. "It is all part of a single pattern of slow but steady growth towards the goal of union,"