By Luke Coppen
CARDfNAI. COTM8C MurphyO'Connor has responded cautiously to an appeal by the Church of England bishops for full intercornmunion.
The Archbishop of Westminster praised the bishops for the "candour and honesty" of their new document on the Eucharist. which called for a "more flexible approach" to the admission of Anglicans to Holy Communion in Catholic churches.
He said the document, The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity, launched last week, indicated the "seriousness with which Anglicans and Catholics view the continuing dialogue between us".
However, the paper, written in response to the Catholic bishops' 1998 teaching document on the Eucharist, One Bread, One Body, underlined a number of unresolved disagreements between the two communions.
"These include Church membership, ecclesial authority, Anglican orders and the different disciplines governing sacramental sharing which broadly speaking distinguish Anglican and Protestant from Orthodox and Catholic," the Cardinal said. "It is a sign of our maturing friendship that with candour and honesty we are able to reflect on these disagreements knowing they are part of the process which will eventually lead us to full communion."
His view was echoed at the launch of the document. Anglican Bishop John Hind, who prepared the paper for the Colt's House of Bishops, said that the problem of intercommunion had to be seen in the light of the ecumenical progress of the last 50 years.
"It is inevitable that when the Church is divided that there are going to be differences of understanding and sometimes misunderstandings that lead to intemperate things being said from time to time," he said.
"What I rejoice in is the way in which over the years this has increasingly been seen as a problem within the family, rather than a battle with somebody outside."
Dr Paul Avis, general secretary of the CofE's Council for Christian Unity, defended the document's assertion that the Anglican Church was not rooted in the Reformation. He said: "We do take issue with the expression that occurs in
One Bread One Body, that the Church of England is rooted in the Reformation. But that doesn't mean that the Church of England is attempting to distance itself from the Reformation or to disown its Reformation heritage. Far from it.
"The Eucharist document draws on the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer 1662. It quotes the great 16th century Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker. That part of the Church of England's heritage does feed into this document," Asked whether the CofE still upheld the condemnation of the Mass contained in the 39 Articles, Bishop Hind said: "The 39 Articles are regarded and revered by members of the Church of England as part of the historic formularies of the church which we regard as being in their day an authentic representation of the faith of the Catholic faith of the Church throughout the ages.
"If we were to regard modern theological statements as having to be measured in every single respect that churches had said about themselves in previous generations, we would be in a very serious position indeed. "Part of the wonder of the ARCIC [Anglican-Roman Catholic international Commission] method was to try to get behind the adversarial language, in which opposition had been expressed in previous generations and try to get to the religious and spiritual heart of the question behind it."
The bishop defended the CofE's practice of inviting all baptised Christians to receive the Eucharist.
He said: "It's certainly no part of the will of the bishops of the Church of England to entice members of other churches to break the rules of their own church. I don't think ecumenism is forwarded by that kind of approach at all. It is also not our business to police the internal discipline of other churches with regard to its own members.
"The fundamental question is what kind of exercise ecumenism is. I do not believe that the ecumenical movement is an exercise in negotiation between bodies which have got different faiths to see how much they can stitch up together. I believe the ecumenical movement is a joint attention to the truth of the Word of God."'