Page 4, 1st April 1966

1st April 1966
Page 4
Page 4, 1st April 1966 — THE THINGS THAT UNITE US

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People: Paul, Fisher, John, Ramsey
Locations: York, Jerusalem, Rome, Canterbury


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THE phrase to fasten on comes in the first paragraph of the Common Declaration signed by Pope Paul and Dr. Ramsey. It is : "representing the Anglican Communion". Or as Dr. Ramsey put it at the meeting in the Sistine Chapel : "In my office as Archbishop of Canterbury and as President of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops from every part of the Anglican Communion throughout the world."

At once this visit goes into a different category from Dr. Fisher's. In fact as Cardinal Bea remarked at the reception in the Borgia apartments: "The difference between the two visits is the best proof of the prodigious development which has taken place in the years between."

Dr. Fisher's gallant step was taken alone and largely in the dark. It was a personal tribute to the kindly light of Pope John.

Dr. Ramsey's visit is an official progress in broad day. This, too, called for courage. Pope Paul described the bridge over which the procession passed as "this yet unstable viaduct, still under construction."

The Rome welcome honoured the official character of Dr. Ramsey's visit with appropriate protocol. But the personal dimension of courage and frankness made its own distinct impression and evoked its own warm and, I almost said, light-hearted response.

Much will no doubt be written on the graver theological implications of the visit. It is only fair to get in early a note on the personal element. From both sides, it had a tonic effect.

Next I would single out for comment the gracious joint recognition (in paragraph two) that the Holy Ghost is the

creator of the new atmosphere.

The first official text on our side (so far as I know) to attribute the ecumenical movement to the Holy Ghost is the Instruction Ecclesia Cattolica of 1949. Of course, the Decree on Ecumenism makes the same point with solemnity.

At a general audience immediately following his first meeting with Dr. Ramsey, Pope Paul went back to an idea in the 1949 Instruction: "So many good souls have prayed," he said, "for what we see."

I think we should miss the point of this important paragraph about the Holy Ghost if we read it with approval and finished there. It is, in fact, a powerful appeal to Christians of both communions to continue their prayers.

Both Pope Paul and the Archbishop referred publicly to the formidable road ahead. Unless it is traced by the finger of God's right hand we shall not make it.

WHAT stage have we reached now? The Declaration says : "A new stage in fraternal relations." It would be a mistake to minimise the earlier stages. Already, before Dr. Fisher's visit, there was dialogue—systematic and strenuous dialogue.

One remembers a week in the early fifties when divines met behind closed doors to grapple with doctrinal difficulties. It was by no means the first or the last of the series.

The appointment in Rome of a personal representative of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York gave significant permanence to Dr. Fisher's courageous contact. Pope John s invitation of observers at the Council broadened and nourished the good relations.

Characteristically he opened everything up with complete confidence. Bishop Moorman and his companions fully justified it. A new flow of respect and friendliness had its head waters there. We had soldiered through the Council together.

Pope Paul's meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem was remembered explicitly by Dr. Ramsey in his first speech in Rome. Undoubtedly that also was a germinal occasion. In fact there were those who hoped for the Archibshop of Canterbury to make a third in that meeting.

His decision to delay appears now wiser than ever. He has come now. able to make pledges, not only of an official character but with the effect, one must conclude, of engaging the whole Anglican Communion, matching the world-wide pledge of Pope Paul.

Here is the specific difference of this encounter. Ecumenical relations move out of the realm of personal and regional initiative to become, in a good sense, "institutionalised."

However precious our contacts may have been hitherto, at all levels, the future will no doubt show by contrast that they belong to a pioneer, almost an amateur, phase— brilliant and productive, but to a degree uneven and uncoordinated.

The "yet unstable viaduct, still under construction" can no longer be thought of as a Bailey bridge, thrown across ad hoc in the stress of particular circumstances. It must serve normal traffic needs and they should be both regular and heavy.

THE Declaration is in no doubt about the priorities. Any structure solid enough for the purpose can only be grounded in charity, and charity which is capable of sustaining two main stresses: the thrust from past history and the demands of the present situation.

"To leave in the hands of the God of mercy all that in the past has been opposed to this precept of charity" is to bid farewell to all that has wrongly divided us and corroded our relations.

It is a formidable task. It does not mean abandoning any truth or faith or history: charity is no enemy to truth. It does mean cancelling a sad list of human attitudes, interpretations and emphasis, which we should exclude from our relations with fellowcitizens in every other concern of mutual interests, but which we allow to invade our religious relations with fellow Christians and poison them.

A single burying of the hatchet. even with all the sincere fervour of the ceremony in St. Paul's will not be enough. The past imposes on the charity of both sides a constant and sustained effort.

So does the present. And here the Declaration is explicit about its scope : "Sentiments of respect, esteem and mutual love" are required from both communions.

TIte argument has moved from the things that wrongly divided us in the past to the great realities that here and now truly unite us.

These realities are considered in the Decree on Ecumenism. They are, for instance, baptism, the great truths of Chris

tian revelation, reverence for the Scriptures, common concern to give men the peace of Christ.

IN the past we have emphasised what divided us. Now we must treasure what unites us. There is no other source of the respect, esteem and mutual love to which we are now pledged. Even the "serious dialogue which the Declaration goes on to promise, will fail to serve if we deny this fundamental change of attitude".

What will be the shape of this promised dialogue? The common ground for it is significantly indicated—not only the Gospels but "the ancient common tradition."

Once more the Decree on Ecumenism gives a clear lead —one that was greatly appreciated by Anglicans — when ;t speaks of "the special place held by the Anglican Communion" for the partial survival in it of Catholic traditions and structure.

If survival has been due ;n part to revival, particularly through the work of the Tractarians, we must salute the providential process which kept a love for Catholic things latent but continuous even in the most iconoclastic periods.

The matter for dialogue is also indicated : problems both theological and practical. How will the agenda be arranged and who will conduct the dialogue?

I can only hazard a personal opinion, but would think that the first task is the appointment of representatives by both sides. Their choice will necessarily reflect the new stage in our relations, which, as has been said, no longer rest upon a personal, local or regional initiatives.

The composition of the teams will, therefore, present from the Anglican side men from various Churches of the Anglican communion, and from our side, men from various parts of the world where the Anglican communion is strong.

No one Hierarchy (as Dr. Ramsey pointed out in his Roman press conference) will control the dialogue. It will be "institutionalised" on the basis of the whole Anglican communion, the whole Catholic Church.

THE first task, I surmise, of the teams will be to agree an agenda for submission to their respective supreme authorities.

This will be top-level, scientific dialogue. General principles require that the participants should be men of genuine competence. At the same time, the Declaration gives an obvious pastoral scope to the work (reminiscent of Pope John's orientation to Vatican II). This means that the work cannot become an academic exercise, or the reserve of professors.

Wider than the pledge of serious dialogue is the Declaration's determination to "promote responsible contacts between their communions in all those spheres Of Church life where collaboration is likely to lead to greater understanding and a deeper charity . . ."

We can look for official world-wide action together in many spheres of welfare work, where collaboration has spar adically begun, but where solutions languish because of our generally divided approach.

The solutions of other problems "that face those who believe in Christ in the world today" must certainly mean, inter alia, that we join forces to study the problem of atheism in all its forms and institute together whatever dialogue is feasible.

But this will be no novelty. Cardinal Koenig's Secretariat for Non-Believers already seeks the services of non-Catholic experts.

The Declaration makes no forecasts, following in this also the example of the Decree on Ecumenism, and says "serious obstacles stand in the way of restoration of complete communion of faith and sacramental life . .."

It would be idle to speculate about the shape or times of things to come.

But progress towards the goal is realistically seen to be geared to "a strengthening of peace in the world". This will be true in fact, and should be already true in our prayers: the two great aims should be coupled.

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