From Our Special Correspondent in Rome
DURING his visit to Rome next March. the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, is to be the guest of the Holy See. As such he will stay, I understand, not within the Vatican itself, but on "Vatican territory" — in this case, the Venerable English College.
This unprecedented courtesy extended by the head of the Catholic Church to the head of the Anglican Church will give tremendous added prestige and ecumenical significance to the Archbishop's visit.
I also understand that, after Dr. Ramsey's private audience with Pope Paul at the Vatican on March 3. the Pope may personally return his guest's call. If so, it will also be the first time a Pope has done this.
When Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, Dr. Ramsey's predecessor, visited the late Pope John in 1960, both visitor and Pope were at pains to emphasise that it was purely a "courtesy call". On that occasion, Dr. Fisher stayed first at the British Legation to the Holy See, then at the British Embassy in Rome.
Nor was his call on Pope John an event solely designed for that purpose. It was made while Dr. Fisher was returning to England after a trip to the Holy Land. No return call from the Vatican to Dr. Fisher was involved.
Normally when, for instance, Heads of State pay official visits to, the Pope, the call is returned by the Vatican Secre tars' of State or one of his senior representatives.
IN NON-CATHOLIC CHURCH?
During Dr. Ramsey's Rome visit there is also to be a "unity" Church service, which both the Pope and the Archbishop are expected to attend with representatives of other Christian communities.
It will be similar to that which Pope Paul attended with Anglican and other non-Catho
lic observers to the Vatican Council in St. Paul's Outside the Walls to mark the Council closing in December.
This time, however, the suggestion is being made that the service should take place in a non-Catholic church. This may not be at Rome's only Anglican church of All Saints, but the larger American Episcopal church of St. Paul's Within the Walls. which is on Via Nationale, in the city centre.
Arrangements for Dr. Ramsey's visit are being completed between Canon John Findlow, his personal representative to the Vatican, and the secretariat for the promotion of Christian Unity. It is too early yet for detailed information about the visit to be released.
It is interesting to note that whereas Dr. Fisher, the first Archbishop of Canterbury to visit a Pope since the Reformation four centuries ago, came to Rome while preparations for the Vatican Council were entering a decisive stage, Dr. Ramsey is coming while preparations to implement the Council's decisions are getting under way.
`VIVID INTEREST Vatican Radio has described Dr. Ramsey's visit to Pope Paul as "more than a symbolic courtesy call and a further significant step in the ecumenical movement". The Archbishop, it added, "had followed the ecumenical council with vivid interest".
The Radio noted that last November, Dr. Ramsey had named a new representative with the Vatican's Christian Unity Secretariat. making him his delegate as both Primate of England and President of the 44 million member World Anglican Communion. The previous representative had been the Archbishop's personal representative only, Vatican Radio said.
Noting also that Dr. Ramsey will call on Pope Paul as head of the Lambeth Conference, to which all the world Anglican community Bishops belong, Vatican Radio added that "all
these elements" conferred unprecedented significance upon the Archbishop of Canterbury's forthcoming visit.
MIXED MARRIAGES Just this week, Dr. Ramsey. speaking of things which Anglicans and Catholics had in cornmon, as well as those which divided them, said one of the greatest stumbling blocks was the Catholic Church's attitude towards mixed marriages.
Pope Paul promised last year to issue a Motu Proprio on mixed marriages after the Vatican Council had discussed the subject and many bishops had sailed for a relaxation of the Church's traditional attitude. The Bishops decided to refer the question to the Pope and ask him to handle it as expeditiously as possible.
Will Pope Paul now issue his statement, authorising the Church to accept as valid a mixed marriage celebrated in a non-Catholic church, before the Archbishop of Canterbury conies to see him in March?
It could happen. Certainly, if he does, it will delight Dr. Ramsey and his fellow-Anglicans and clear away one obstacle now very muck in the minds of even those Anglicans most strongly in favour of closer Anglican-Catholic bonds —and also, of course, in the minds of so many Catholics, clerical and lay.
No branch of the Vatican feels more deeply satisfied that Dr. Ramsey and the Pope are to meet than the Secretariat for Christian Unity, through which arrangements for the meeting have been made.