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New document fosters Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue

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New document fosters Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue

By Elena Dini

ROME — The latest agreed statement by the third Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) was released July 2. “Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be the Church — Local, Regional, Universal” indicates that Anglicans and Catholics are still on the way together and learning from each other.

The year 1966 included a watershed moment for Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue: Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey paid a visit to Pope Paul VI, and a common journey began. In 1970, ARCIC was instituted and, since then, has explored the themes of authority and ecclesiology of communion. 

“This current document takes up these two themes again, and seeks to develop them in a new way,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon in a joint statement that serves as the preface of the statement. Both archbishops served as co-chairs of ARCIC III.

In an interview with The Lay Centre, Archbishop Moxon said the document “is the result of work that goes back to 2011, when the ARCIC III began its work at the monastery at Bose.”

“The mandate given by Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was to address the theme of the Church local and universal, and how the Church comes to discern right ethical teaching,” said Archbishop Moxon, who had served as the the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, from 2013 to 2017.

The document, divided into six sections, begins with a biblical reflection on the Church. It includes the fundamentals of a theology of ecclesial communion, with a special focus on the ecclesial implications of baptism and Eucharist. It also explores the structures and challenges of both traditions at the local, regional and international levels. The structure of the document’s three last sections helps readers to understand the specific contributions each tradition has made to the discussion.

In an interview with The Lay Centre, Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Canada, and co-chair of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, employed the image of languages to explain how another religious tradition can help a person understand one’s own church more deeply. 

“It is said that to know only one language is not to know ‘language’; a second language is required for deeper insight into how language functions,” he said. 

“In the way that ‘Walking Together’ sets the challenges faced by Anglicans and Catholics side by side, in the way that it presents our struggles and our gifts in parallel fashion, it creates a space whereby readers from either tradition might see their own church in clearer light because they are seeing it with reference to other another Christian community,” he said.

Commenting on the document, Lay Centre director Donna Orsuto said “for the first time ever, an official document uses the methodology of ‘receptive ecumenism.’”

This methodology invites people to “discern what appears to be overlooked or underdeveloped in one’s own tradition and to ask whether such things are better developed in the other tradition” (par.18 of the new statement).

Archbishop Moxon told The Lay Centre the document “maps out the ways in which our two communions might now learn more from each other in the area of ecclesiology and those areas where we find mission and ministry especially difficult.”

“What unites us is far greater than what divides us we rediscover, and what we can learn from each other will strengthen us both as we seek that unity which the Lord wills for us all,” he said.

Archbishop Bolen echoed this comment, saying that walking together “also means learning from each other in our present state of being in real but incomplete communion.”

Orsuto said the document “deserves careful study, reflection and prayer by Anglicans and Roman Catholics.”

“Working and praying for Christian unity is not an optional activity in the Church,” she said. “I believe that this agreed statement is one more step to help us ‘walk together on the way.’”

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