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The visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome
“We’re working together for the kingdom, we’re praying together, and of course we have a huge agenda institutionally, which we’ve no idea how to sort out, but meanwhile we go on working and praying in great affection”. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams thus summarized the general relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion at the end of a two-day visit in Rome, headed towards the Abbey of Montecassino where he delivered an address titled “Monks and Mission: a perspective from England”. The Archbishop’s statement is contained in a communiqué by the Anglican Communion News that refers to a news report on the Archbishop’s visit published by the Episcopal News Service (ENS), which draws a balance on the state of ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans. The news agency collected the view of bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. He told ENS that the event “means that the ecumenical movement is not dead. For some years, it has been frozen, as the major partners have had to deal with serious issues in their own churches. But these meetings keep showing that things are different now and we will not go back to the bad old days”.
Monasticism and ecumenism. This was the theme of the address of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to the Camaldoli monastic community at San Gregorio Magna al Celio in Rome. “One of the hardest yet most important lessons the different Christian communities today have to learn – he said - is that they cannot live without each other and that no single one of them in isolation possesses the entirety of the Gospel. God has used the often tragic divisions of Christian history in such a way that each community has been permitted to discover new depths in this or that particular emphasis in doctrine or devotion”. He added: “We are sisters and brothers in the Church not because we naturally and instinctively belong together, agree, or speak the same language; but because we are summoned to be together in our strangeness to each other, and to be faithful to each other in that strangeness”. Monastic life, continues the Archbishop, thus the life of the Church, coheres around the divine Word.
The whole people of God. The Archbishop thus underlined that “monasticism is first and foremost a lay movement”, which is another significant contribution to the ecumenical encounter”. So much of the detail of ecumenical debate seems to focus compulsively on issues that affect the understanding of ordained ministry. But “the Church is the whole People of God”. To the extent that “the monastic community steps aside from simply replicating clerical modes of power or privilege it is at once recognizable as a place where the Word is heard, as it is by laypeople of every confession”. “There are aspects of monasticism as such that enable us to understand more fully some things about ecumenism, and that make monastic communities crucial partners in all ecumenical encounter”, which is, seeking to “balance solitude and community life”; the “dependence of the monastic community simply on the Word is a gift to the Church’s self-critical energy”, “standing ‘at an angle’ to the Christian conventions of hierarchy, the monastic community represents straightforwardly the people of God, the laos, in a way that allows a real commonalty of experience to create unexpected relationships of understanding and sympathy”.
A future rich in hope. In his address Fr Robert Hale, prior of the New Camaldoli Hermitage (USA) highlighted the common heritage and the ecclesial roots shared by Anglicans and Catholics alike in the spirituality of Saint Gregorio, whom both consider an “Apostolic father”. He recalled the Benedictine Anglican communities in England, in the US and elsewhere, all dedicated to the Pope’s name. “The future – the prior concluded – offers great hope for new horizons of friendship between Saint Gregorio and the Anglican Communion”.