Pope Begins Promoting Christian Unity

Patriarch Bartholomew I (L) and Pope Francis in 2013

Theology and Society:

Enzo Bianchi — appointed on July 22 as consultor of the Pontificial Council for Promoting Christian Unity — said the Pope could allow a council of bishops, including Greek Orthodox bishops, to assist in governing the Church, the Catholic News website reports today (August 3, 2014).

Reform of the Synod of Bishops and the growth of synodality within the Catholic Church would greatly enhance the opportunity for union between Rome and the Orthodox churches by making the papacy less “monarchical” and the Catholic Church less centralized.

Bianchi — Prior of the Bose monastery in northeast Italy — said: “I believe that the pope wants to achieve unity by reforming the papacy.”

Pope Francis feels that union with the Orthodox Churches in particular is “an urgent goal,” Bianchi emphasized. “I believe that the Pope has one particular concern, that unity should not be achieved in the spirituality of unity but rather is a command by Christ which we must carry out,” he told the Italian daily “La Stampa.”

Reform would involve a new balance between collegiality and primacy, Bianchi explained. “The Orthodox have synodality, but not primacy. We Catholics have primacy but a lack of synodality.”

Up to 1 in 10 Roman Catholic Priests Are Former Anglicans (UK)

The Tablet:

Up to one in 10 Catholic priests are former Church of England clergy, according to new figures.

Professor Linda Woodhead, a sociologist of religion at Lancaster University and organiser of the Westminster Faith Debates, worked with the Catholic bishops’ vocations director Fr Christopher Jamison OSB to establish that 389 Catholic priests are former Anglican priests, including 87 priests in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingam.

Currently it is estimated that in England and Wales there are 3,000 active diocesan priests, 800 retired priests, 1,000 religious priests and 700 deacons. Most of the Anglicans are believed to be working in parishes or chaplaincies.

Professor Woodhead told The Tablet that the Church of England clergy represented in these figures began to leave their original Church from 1994, when the first women were ordained priests. Those who left between 1994 and 2004 were provided with financial compensation amounting to 100 per cent of their stipend in year one, three-quarters in year two and two-thirds in year three. The payments amounted to £27.4 million over a decade.

She wanted to establish the veracity of reports that 400-500 priests and thousands of lay faithful had decided to join the Catholic Church, with many now serving as priests, including hundreds who are married.

She estimates that about 250 clergy “went across” between 1994 and 2000, with a further 52 from 2001, and then the Ordinariate clergy on top of that.

Professor Woodhead pointed out that the Catholic Church made the biggest gain from the moves given that there are 18,000 Anglican clergy compared with around 4,000 Catholic priests.

“So a relatively small loss of clergy numbers for the Church of England represents a very significant gift for the Catholic Church in England and Wales at a time of falling ordinations,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary, said in a homily at Portsmouth Cathedral that people sometimes asked members of the Ordinariate why they couldn’t become “proper Catholics.”

He said: “What they mean is, why can’t you just be absorbed into the wider Catholic Church so that what you bring disappears like sugar dissolved in water,” stressing that Christian unity was not about uniformity.

In September there will be events held by Ordinariate groups across the country to promote better understanding of the structure, set up to allow Anglicans to become Catholics while retaining elements of their identity.

 

 

Anglicans Joining Ordinariate Are Like ‘Hobbits In Search of Treasure’

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (CNS)

So say the Ordinary, Msgr Keith Newton:

Anglicans joining the Ordinariate are like Bilbo Baggins and the other hobbits going in search of treasure, Mgr Keith Newton said on Sunday.

Speaking in Portsmouth Cathedral, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham began his homily by mentioning The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, which he described as “one of (his) favourite children’s books… the exiting story of a hobbit together with a band of dwarves searching for dragon guarded gold,” before adding that the true treasure is to be found in Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven.

“To discover Christ and his kingdom is more of a lifelong treasure hunt,” he said. “We need God’s grace to do this because it needs courage to make sacrifices and to take risks for Christ if we try to faithfully seek his kingdom and his righteousness. It is part of making choices in seeking of the kingdom that has led some former Anglicans to enter full communion of the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.”

He said that people sometimes asked members of the Ordinariate why they couldn’t become “proper Catholics”. “What they mean”, he said, is “why can’t you just be absorbed into the wider Catholic Church so that what you bring disappears like sugar dissolved in water”. But, he added, “Christian Unity is not about Christian uniformity”.

“It is about exploring the possibility of sharing a common faith in communion with the successor of Peter and yet having different liturgical, devotional and pastoral practices which enrich the wider Church. When Catholics and Anglicans first began talking about unity they used the phrase of being ‘united but not absorbed’. In the Ordinariate that idea has been put into practice – the possibility of Unity of Faith and diversity of expression,” Mgr Newton said.

“Pope Benedict encouraged us not to leave our history behind but to take it into the Catholic Church and to share some of the distinctive aspects of Anglicanism which are consistent with the Catholic Faith.” The Ordinariate Mass has elements taken from the Book of Common Prayer – “a treasure to be shared.”

An Ordinariate “exploration day” event in Portsmouth is just one of 40 different events being held on September 6 by Ordinariate groups across the country, to help people to understand the Ordinariate better. Pope Francis last week sent his good wishes, saying he is praying for the success of the day.

For the full text Mgr Newton’s homily go here.

Archbishop Welby’s Unity Plea to Pope Francis Over Women Bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to Pope Francis in a plea to prevent the ordination of women bishops from derailing plans for the eventual reunification between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches…

June 2013: Pope Francis meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican

Archbishop of Canterbury insists differences over women bishops should not halt moves to Anglican-Roman Catholic unity saying: ‘We need each other’ …

The Telegraph has the rest.

 

Pushing the Patriarch into Putin’s Arms

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and  Vladimir Putin attend celebrations marking the 700th anniversary of St Sergius of Radonezh earlier this month

In the Catholic Herald:

Until the dramatic downing of flight MH17, Ukraine had ceased to be regularly at the forefront of the news agenda, displaced by conflicts elsewhere and by more mundane events. The return of international attention to the strife-torn country reminds us that the situation there continues to be as alarmingly tense as ever.

In the midst of so much turmoil and confusion, Ukraine’s competing Orthodox churches and its much smaller Catholic and Protestant communities continue to play a role as both symbols and factors of differing political and cultural outlooks. Their own future, too, will depend to a greater or lesser extent on the outcome of the conflict. The Moscow patriarchate continues to position itself as a close ally of the Kremlin. The Orthodox Church – which venerates the Roman emperor Constantine, who established Christianity as the religion of his empire, as “equal to the Apostles” – has always been nostalgic for the Byzantine symbiosis of Church and polity. Nobody who knows history should be surprised at this latest example of the alliance between throne and altar, whether we judge it holy or the opposite.

Nevertheless, Moscow’s Patriarch Kyrill has tried to put some distance at least between his Church and the more extreme positions of Russian nationalists. We must hope that respect for peace, truth and justice underlie his caution. But we should also remember that he knows that many members of his flock are attached to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their homeland and that by no means all are nostalgic for Kremlin rule. He certainly fears that many might defect to the rival Kiev patriarchate. The latter group, although considered uncanonical and schismatic by most Orthodox churches worldwide, has made significant inroads into Moscow’s flock in recent years.

Any acceleration in this loss would significantly undermine Moscow’s ambition to be recognised as the de facto leader of worldwide Orthodoxy. Voices have recently been heard expressing the hope that the schism would soon be healed and most of Ukraine’s Orthodox reunited under a single jurisdiction. That seems overly optimistic for now, but Kyrill will be convinced that the division must at least not be exacerbated. Hence the dove-like noises he has been making, pleading for a peaceful solution at a time when the more hawkish voices are setting the agenda in Russian society as a whole. His statement on the downed plane neither points the finger nor attempts to deflect blame, confining itself to expressing sorrow and the hope for an impartial investigation.

But however moderate Kyrill tries to appear, not everybody is impressed. The Ukrainian government was alarmed by suggestions that he might turn up in Kiev this month to celebrate the anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus’ (which both Russians and Ukrainians claim as the founding of their church) and made it clear that he would be persona non grata. The recent death of the chief hierarch of the Moscow-based church, Metropolitan Volodymyr, adds to the uncertainty. The coming election of a successor by the Moscow synod will offer an indication of whether Moscow chooses a more moderate figure – someone like Volodymyr’s locum tenens Metropolitan Onufry, often judged more conciliatory – or turns to a more confrontational candidate.

Whatever the talk of reunifying Ukraine’s splintered Orthodox majority, the reality concerning relations between Catholics and Orthodox is not so edifying. In particular, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGGC), which follows the same Byzantine rite and customs as the Orthodox but is in union with Rome, is in the firing line. The Orthodox have long seen Greek Catholics, to whom they refer by the disparaging term of “uniates”, as a papal Trojan Horse, used by the Vatican to undermine Orthodoxy. Rhetoric about the evils of “uniatism” has traditionally been turned up when the Orthodox have felt insecure and threatened. Last month it reached a paroxysm that was all the more distressing in that it came from a churchman usually seen as being of a relatively irenical disposition.

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the spokesman of the Moscow patriarchate for external affairs, is a respected theologian relatively favourable to ecumenical dialogue with western Christians. In April he claimed that “uniatism’ was and is a special project of the Catholic Church, aiming to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism”. He accused Greek Catholics, and thus implicitly the Catholic Church as a whole, of “oppressing the Orthodox clergy in all possible ways” and of launching a “crusade against Orthodoxy”.

The response from the Vatican was predictably muted: Roman ecumenists are patient men, loathe to endanger decades of painfully slow progress in reaction to what might be construed as an intemperate but uncharacteristic outburst. The head of the UGCC, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, made a mild response, pleading for the Orthodox to see him and his church as brothers and not enemies. Without over-dramatising, it is worth asking why Hilarion, who must have known that his statement would endanger hard-won improvements in ecumenical relations, chose to make it anyway.

We cannot exclude from the equation the effects of passions and fears which violent conflicts have on the judgment even of Christians. But I wonder if there is not a more calculated side to Hilarion’s statement. Nothing unites a body divided so much as a common enemy. Might Hilarion not have hoped that by re-awakening long-held fears of Catholic expansion he might encourage his co-religionists to abandon internecine strife, in order to concentrate their fire on the ancestral foe?

Rest here. Interesting stuff.

 

Pope Francis Prays for Success of Initiative to Convert Anglicans

The above heading caught my attention on the inimitable Fr Z’s blog:

In the wake of the decision of the State tethered Church of England to have wyshyps (female bishops), the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham set up a “Exploration Day”.

You know that the Ordinariate was created according to the provisions of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, for Anglicans who want to be Catholic and want to retain their customs, liturgy, etc.

Benedict XVI is, of course, the Pope of Christian Unity.

Anglicans have a true home in the Catholic Church.

I just read this press release from the Ordinariate:

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE PERSONAL ORDINARIATE OF OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 27.07.2014

Pope Francis Prays For Success of Ordinariate’s Exploration Day

Pope Francis has said he is praying for the success of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham’s forthcoming “Called To Be One” exploration day, which it has planned with the aim of increasing understanding of the Ordinariate’s purpose and reaching out to those who may feel called to join it.

The endorsement was delivered in a letter from the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, to Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate.

The full text of Archbishop Mennini’s letter reads as follows:

“At the request of the Secretariat of State, I have been asked to inform you that  the Holy Father Francis, on learning of the national day of exploration entitled “Called to be One”, organised by the various Groups of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and due to take place on Saturday 6 September 2014, wishes to convey his good wishes and prayers for a successful and inspiring event. The Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing upon all those persons who are participating in this significant event and working in any way for the promotion and presentation of the Catholic Faith and the Gospel in Great Britain”.

The Nuncio ends with his own prayerful good wishes for a very successful day.

Pope Francis’ blessing on the exploration day and Archbishop Mennini’s words of support for it follow a statement of welcome for the initiative from Cardinal Vincent Nichols. In his capacity as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Cardinal said: “the Ordinariate both enriches the Catholic Church with Catholic aspects of the beautiful heritage and culture of Anglican patrimony and advances the cause of unity which must be the ultimate aim of all ecumenical activity… I wish you every success with this initiative. I hope it will attract many interested enquirers”.

Last week Mgr Newton warmly invited all those who are interested in the Ordinariate to attend the exploration day “whether because they are considering their future or just because they would like to see more of what we are and what we do” . Mgr Newton’s invitation came in his response to the Church of England General Synod’s decision to allow women to be ordained as bishops. In the same statement Mgr Newton said that, though that decision was a very happy one for many within the Church of England, it made the position undeniably harder for those within the Anglican Church who still longed for unity with Rome.

The Ordinariate was set up by Pope Benedict in 2011 to make it possible for Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church to do so, bringing with them much of the heritage and traditions of Anglicanism. Pope Benedict described these as “treasures to be shared”. On the exploration day, each of the 40 or so Ordinariate groups across the country will host a different event, with the common theme of the vision for Christian unity which is at the heart of the Ordinariate.

I am glad to hear of Pope Francis’ prayers for the success of this initiative to help Anglicans come into the Catholic Church.

As Benedict, so Francis.

There is also a comment (with a link) which will be of interest to readers of this blog on the status of the Church of Torres Strait here.