BY LUKE COPPEN
ANGLICANS and Catholics have made "incredible" progress towards unity, Dr George Carey said during his final visit to Rome as Archbishop of Canterbury last week.
Dr Carey, who will retire in October, used his sixth and last visit to the Pope to underline the "growing closeness" between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church during his 11 years as leader of the Church of England. But in comments highlighting the divisions between Anglicans and Catholics, the Archbishop said the Church of England was "leading the way" for the Catholic Church by ordaining women priests.
During a private papal audience on Friday, the Archbishop paid tribute to John Paul II's ministry. Addressing the Pope as a "Beloved Brother in Christ", Dr Carey said the Pontiff's "courage, wisdom and holiness of life" had inspired Christians throughout the world.
"While we are not yet in the full communion to which the Lord calls us, I rejoice in our shared baptismal faith and the growth in fellowship between our two churches," Dr Carey said. In reply, the Pope said the Archbishop's visit was "a living sign" of "close relations" between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.
The evening before his private audience, Dr Carey visited an exhibition on Anglicanism at the Vatican Museums. Pausing in front of a 1997 photograph of himself and Pope John Paul lighting candles at a prayer service, the Archbishop reportedly said: "It is incredible how far we have come."
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Archbishop said the ordination of women did not mark a "final break" between Anglicans and Catholics. "Sometimes churches have to change and go with the leading of the Holy Spirit and sometimes this takes hundreds of years. It doesn't mean to say one church is right and another church is wrong," he said.
"We have lagged behind the Roman Catholic Church in many directions but maybe on this issue we are leading the way."
Dr Carey's successor is expected to be named in July. Archbishop Rowan Williams of Wales is reportedly the leading candidate.