THIS LAMBETH EXHIBITION IS FASCINATING
VISITING the Christian ' Unity Exhibition in Lambeth Palace Library is a daunting experience at first. Admittance is through the Lollards Tower gateway and a small, polite notice near a bell invites callers to "Please Ring".
The attendant who answers the bell escorts you almig one or two perplexing corridors, across a secluded courtyard with its square of lawn and restful goldfish pond and into the library, where you are asked to sign the visitors' book. It is not the sort of exhibition where you can breeze in and wander at will.
But it is free, and you are not likely to be overwhelmed by the crowds. On the two occasions I visited it there were at the most only two other visitors looking around.
Yet the exhibition is possibly of greater contemporary importance than any likely to be mounted at Earls Court or Olympia this year, drawing the thousands to see motor cars, television sets or home furnishings.
It brings together manuscripts. archives and books from the Library of Lambeth Palace and other sources with the principal intention of showing "those efforts to reunite Christendom in which the Churches of the Anglican Communion have either taken the initiative, or played a predominant role," as the Rev. Henry R. T. Brandreth, an authority on the Ecumenical Movement, explains in his introduction to the S.P.C.K. catalogue.
Among the 52 exhibits are several of particular interest to Catholics. Chief among them is the framed original of the Common Declaration signed by Pope Paul, and the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome on March 23 this year. It is written in a firm, angular hand with a brilliantly illuminated initial letter and matching border and legibly signed Michael Cantuar and Paulus P.P.VI.
The original was handed by the Pope to Archbishop Ramsay at the service of prayer at St. Paul's-Without-theWalls after their historic meeting in the Sistine Chapel.
There is also a signed letter from Pope John to Archbishop Fisher—"the first personal letter received by an Archbishop of Canterbury from a Pope since the Reformation," the catalogue notes.
INSPIRATION Lord Fisher has contributed his own account of his meeting with Pope John and of the initiative which persuaded him to become a pilgrim to Rome. It is a single sheet of tightly-spaced typescript, here and there corrected and altered in ink and signed by the former Primate.
He compares the impulse which prompted his own decision to embark on a"joyful pilgrimage" to Jerusalem. Istanbul and Rome with the "sudden inspiration" which prompted Pope John to call the Vatican Council.
"Much the same may be said of the idea that I should seek to visit Pope John," Lord Fisher says.
These are evidence of great and significant con
temporary events, but the exhibition sets out to show that the desire for unity is not a current phenomenon. It features the manuscript notebook of Archbishop Cosmo Lang kept by him as Chairman of the Reunion Committee of the 1920 Lambeth Conference, and the manuscript of his address on unity.
This conference led to fullscale discussions between the Anglican and Free Churches and, the catalogue claims, indirectly to the Malines Conversations.
These took place between a group of Anglican and Catholic theologians between 1921 and 1925 under the presidency of Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malincs, on the initiative of Lord Halifax and the Abbe Fernand Portal.
Among this group of exhibits are letters from Lord Halifax to the Archbishop of Canterbury, letters from Cardinal Mercier to the Archbishop, including the one he dictated on his deathbed, and the minutes of the conference in which Cardinal Mercier, as chairman, said: "We are all one heart in seeking the Lord and ask Him to forward our work."
On view is a chalice lent by the Dean and Chapter of York in which is embedded the episcopal ring of Cardinal Mercier. On his deathbed Cardinal Mercier a prelate in the mould of Pope John— gave the ring to Lord Halifax and on Lord Halifax's death his son, the first Earl of Halifax, presented it to York Minster.