ROME (CNS) – A group of Catholic and Anglican theologians have publicly called on the Vatican to review and rescind an 1896 papal document that declared Anglican ordinations “absolutely void and utterly void.”
“Where we once parted, we now walk together in friendship and love,” wrote members of the Mechelen Conversations Group after tracing the history of ecumenical agreements between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion and, above all, reviewed examples of collaboration and gestures of recognition.
The judgment rendered by Pope Leo XIII in his apostolic letter “Apostolicae Curae” in 1896 “does not correspond to the reality in which the Spirit has led us now,” said members of the group, which is a Catholic-Anglican dialogue. informal which started in 2013.
The members of the group, who are not nominated to represent their churches but keep their respective ecumenical offices informed of their studies and discussions, presented their document on December 15 at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
The 27-page document is titled “Sorores in Spe – Sisters in Hope for the Resurrection: A New Response to the Condemnation of the Anglican Orders”.
Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that although his Vatican office does not sponsor the group’s dialogue, “we are very happy” that the issue of Anglican orders is “Viewed in a totally different ecumenical context from today, when so much has been accomplished in Anglican-Catholic relations.
“From the Catholic point of view, it is a question of finding the theological and canonical language which would better reflect what we do in practice, that is to say to recognize a real ministry in other churches”, he said. he told Catholic News Service. “As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the Holy Spirit indeed works through them for the salvation of their members.”
The context of “Sorores in Spe” is the theological and practical difference in Catholic-Anglican relations over the past 125 years and, in particular, since the official Anglican-Roman Catholic theological dialogue was established in 1967 by Saint Paul VI and Anglican Archbishop Michael. Ramsey of Canterbury.
The theological and canonical motivations for Pope Leo’s decision, as explained in the document, were “flaws” in form and intent in Anglican ordination rites because, in the eyes of the Vatican, “it was not clear that the priest received “the power to consecrate and offer the true Body and Blood of the Lord” “and because the Anglican Communion had introduced a rite not approved by the church.
But the official concerted declarations of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission since 1970, including declarations on the Eucharist and on ministry, “bear witness to an intimate family resemblance between our traditions, which reveals a communion already shared”, he said. declared “Sorores in Spe.”
This resemblance is particularly underlined by a succession of gifts from the Pope to Anglican clerics, members of the Mechelen Conversations Group said. They cite: the gift by Saint Paul VI of his episcopal ring to Archbishop Ramsey in 1966; the pectoral crosses that several popes have given to Anglican bishops over the years; and the stole that Saint John Paul II gave to Anglican Father Henry Chadwick in 1982.
The progress over the past 50 years has been such that it is no longer unusual that “our deepest mutual friendships, our spiritual directors, our confidants and prayer partners, and our trusted theological interlocutors all cross the Anglican-Catholic divide. Roman, ”said Rev. Sarah. Coakley, Anglican theologian.
In the conversations of the formal theological dialogue on ministry and ordination, the question of the ordination of women as priests and bishops in most churches of the Anglican Communion comes up over and over again. The Catholic Church insisted that it did not have the right to ordain women to the priesthood, since Jesus only chose men as his apostles.
But those who wrote “Sorores in Spe” insisted that the arguments for or against the ordination of women are different from the arguments used by Pope Leo in “Apostolicae Curae” to declare Anglican orders null and void.
“The fact that women in most Anglican provinces can now be ordained does not in itself mean that the papal condemnation of 1896 should be applied to the present situation,” they write.
Presenting the document on December 15, Sister Gemma Simmonds, a member of the Congregation of Jesus, told the audience that one of the goals of the synodal process of the Catholic Church is to overcome “toxic clericalism and misogyny” in its ranks.
But, she said, the ordination of women priests and bishops “has not entirely banished misogyny within the Anglican Church and illustrates that neither theological discourse nor ecclesial action is sufficient to convert minds and hearts ”.
Yet, Sister Simmonds said, many Catholic women have drawn hope from the will of the Anglican Communion to “take bold steps” to affirm what is written in the Letter to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave nor free person. , there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
From the first Mechelen conversations in 1921-1927, the group said: “Anglicans and Catholics have learned to pray together and for each other, our joint study of scriptures and tradition has brought about a renewal, we are committed in common projects of dialogue, formation of disciples and witness, we have experienced a growing friendship.
“In a world completely transformed since the late 19th century, facing challenges and threats on a scale beyond imagination at the time,” the group said, “we have learned what it is to share a common hope. We long for our churches to be able to embrace each other as sisters in Christ.
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