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Anglican and Catholic unity

April 2007

Proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published later this year, according to a report carried in The Times newspaper, although both churches have reportedly denied that there is a reunion plan.


The 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches urges members of the denominations to explore how they might reunite under the Pope. It is currently being considered by the Vatican, where Catholic bishops are preparing a formal response.


The report is the product of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, set up in 2000 by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, then head of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity. Its aim was to find a way of moving towards unity through ‘common life and mission’.


The document leaked to The Times is the commission’s first statement, Growing together in Unity and Mission. The report acknowledges the ‘imperfect communion’ between the two churches but says that there is enough common ground to make its ‘call for action’ relating to the Pope and other issues.


In one significant passage the report notes: ‘The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth’.

Bishop of Rome

Anglicans rejected the Bishop of Rome as universal primate during the sixteenth century Reformation. Today, however, some Anglicans are wondering if there is scope for a ministry of universal primacy, which would be exercised by the Bishop of Rome, as a sign and focus of unity within a reunited church.


In another paragraph the report says: ‘We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion’.


Other recommendations include inviting lay and ordained members of both denominations to attend each other’s synodical and collegial gatherings and conferences. Anglican bishops could be invited to accompany Catholic ones on visits to Rome.


The report adds that special ‘protocols’ should also be drawn up to handle the movement of clergy from one Church to the other. Other proposals include common teaching resources for children in Sunday schools and attendance at each other’s services, pilgrimages and processions. Anglicans are also urged to begin praying for the Pope during the intercessionary prayers in church services, and Catholics are asked also to pray publicly for the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Such proposed cooperation flies in the face of the Church of England’s own historic Articles of Religion – otherwise known as the 39 Articles. This was drawn up in 1562 and clearly reflects the biblical gospel of grace, unlike ecumenical endeavours such as this that either marginalise or ignore true scriptural teaching.

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