Archbishop Rowan Williams - interview (2006 The Catholic Herald Ltd)

Speaking just before his first extended audience with Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury talks to Freddy Gray about Richard Dawkins, women priests – and how close he is to Catholicism

Archbishop, throughout history people have struggled to understand that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Some eras have underlined the divinity of Christ, presenting him as a terrifying judge of mankind. Others have focused so much on his humanity that he seemed little more than a good man who taught us to be kind to others. I wonder where you think we are today: what are the characteristic insights and blind spots of our own age in relation to Jesus?

It’s a wonderful question to start with because it is the most central that there could be. When I look at the history of the Christian Church, especially in the early centuries, what strikes me as extraordinary is that the temptation to go overboard for one or the other – the humanity or the divinity – is always there. The Church always resists it and says: “No, you’ve got to have both.” But the balance has never been easy, I think.
Interesting that in the question the divinity of Jesus is associated with being a terrifying judge of mankind. I would say that the divinity of Jesus is about the Mystical Body; it’s about Jesus as that end of life into which Christians are incorporated and which they express in the Eucharist. I think that is what we are missing today. We talk about devotion to Jesus. We talk about the quest for the historical Jesus. What often slips out of focus is that sense of the sacramental Christ. The life of the risen Christ is the life out of which flows the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit incorporates us, binds us into that Life, gives us the right to pray “Abba, Father” and gives us the right, in the Eucharist, to join in the prayer of Jesus as we receive the life of Jesus. That is the foundation of private and public prayer – the whole thing. One of the greatest influences for me was the theology of the liturgical movement of the 20th century – Gregory Dix or Lambert Beauduin, the Belgian.

When you write about the Incarnation you often use words such as “disruption”, “interruption”, “upheaval” and “bewilderment”. Are you concerned that many Christians have become too familiar with the idea of God become man and need to let themselves be shaken to their core by it again?

Perhaps not so much “familiar” as almost a “don’t call us” mentality. When Dorothy Sayers was writing her radio plays about the life of Jesus she wrote lots of letters about them to various people and published those letters. She said: “What have we done? This is the most extraordinary thing you could imagine: the Maker of the universe sitting down to scrub his toenails on a roadside in Galilee. How on earth have we managed to make that boring?”

You know, it may be true. It may be false. It may be nonsense. But it is not boring. That is what I am trying to get at using words like “disruption” and so forth. What I see happening in the New Testament – to use the phrase that has been used by a couple of other writers – is that there’s been some sort of explosion and here are all these people picking round the edge of a crater to see what has happened. A sort of Dr Who scenario. Because the words that you’ve got and the ideas that you’ve got are not going to be adequate to what’s happened. So in the New Testament, you see John or Paul feeling their way into a new vocabulary. What have we got to say about this event? What must we say in order to capture the fullness of it?

When you were chosen to be Archbishop of Canterbury you famously said: “If there's one thing I long for above all else, it's that the years to come may see Christianity in this country able again to capture the imagination of our culture, to draw the strongest energies of our thinking and feeling.” Why did Christianity lose its grip on the imagination of the British people?

I don’t really know. I think it is a little bit to do with this routinising of our talk and our worship which all the churches  – yours and mine – are involved in. It’s a little bit to do also with that curious post-Second World War loss of nerve in Britain. There was a very interesting study recently by a young scholar called Matthew Grimley, who said that the problem after the Second World War wasn’t that people stopped believing in Christianity; they stopped believing in moral communities. That sagged and a rather materialistic, pragmatic spirit dug itself in a little further. I think we are still dealing with the consequences of that.

But do you think that modern Christianity might focus too much on the faith as a binder of communities, rather than something much more substantial?

There is a danger there. There are elements in government and public life which would love to have religious communities doing their work for them: binding communities. But it can’t just be social cement. It has got to be a real inspiration, in the sense of seeing people and the world differently. When I was a research student I met someone who had been a close friend of a very, very remarkable old émigré woman Sonya Zernova. She, like many Russian émigrés, was, although firmly anti-Bolshevist, a great believer in justice. She used to go and nag factory owners in France. One of them apparently said: “Why do you bother with these people? They are just animals.” And she said: “No, they are images of God. That is why I bother about them.” Now, that’s capturing the imagination.

Do you think there are signs of growth, a recapturing of the imagination?

Well, there is a lot of interest isn’t there? A couple of nights ago we had the launch of Theos, a new Christian think-tank. We had a very interesting discussion with Shirley Williams, Madeleine Bunting and Frank Field, who I think disagreed quite a bit about how near we were to a rediscovery of Christianity. Madeleine was pretty pessimistic. Shirley was a bit more optimistic. The interest is there and one sort of advantage is that a lot of people are now so ignorant of the Christian narrative and Christian imagery that it comes to them freshly.

So the further society gets from faith, the more we want it?

In one way. We may be better equipped to hear it as if it really were new – that is not impossible. When Philip Pullman’s plays were on at the National, I did a conversation with him. The response to that was very interesting: a lot of young people in the wake of that clearly wanted to know what I was talking about.
The difficulty is that a lot of religious journalists, or people who think they know a bit about religious journalism, tend to have stereotypes about Christian belief: you know, either you are a liberal or you are a fundamentalist. In the middle of all that there is something much more interesting, I think, which is the great tradition that the Church proclaims and which I think, again, ought not to be boring.

Many people seem to instinctively reject Richard Dawkins, though he is the bestseller at the moment.

That’s interesting, isn’t it? I think it works in two ways. First of all, people are always a bit suspicious of people who are overdoing the argument and Dawkins is inclined to go over the top in what he says about the intellectual and moral corruption of religion.
Second, there is perhaps just a touch of scepticism about science. People have gone a bit beyond the idea that scientists are automatically to be listened to and believed when they talk outside their field. We are much more suspicious about science than we might have been 20 or 30 years ago. People think there is something a little bit fishy about science now. It’s leading us in directions that we can’t cope with. The fact that Dawkins is a very, very good scientist doesn’t automatically mean that he is a very good philosopher … which he isn’t.

There is a burgeoning publishing industry devoted to announcing the imminent death of Anglicanism. A recent example is entitled Last Rites and is cheerfully subtitled The End of the Church of England. Does the Church of England still have the power to shape culture, or is it only able to be shaped by it?

“The Church of England as it now is no human power can save.” Those words were spoken in 1831, at the time of the Reform Bill, so a little bit of historical perspective comes in handy. At the same time, it is clear that the Anglican Church worldwide, as it has evolved, has got to find some new ways of relating and organising its life because we have depended a little bit too much on what you might call “gentlemen’s agreements”. As the Church has become so much more diverse, then the old notion of a kind of spiritual version of the British Commonwealth becomes less plausible. We have got to do more and better theology and more and better thinking about structures. We are trying to do it, with the Windsor Report and so on…

As for the Church of England, you do get wildly differing accounts don’t you? I have looked at Michael Hampson’s book, and it doesn’t do me any favours. But my feeling is that, on the ground, parish life is pretty much what it was.

There are real points of strain, especially finding enough volunteers to keep certain bits of the administration going – parish treasurers and so forth. At the same time, there are largely uncontrolled and unplanned bits of growth. My sense is of lots and lots of parishes that are very effectively plugged into their local communities, working, often heroically, with very limited resources with young people and young families.  And while they have all sorts of anxieties about finance and maintenance, there is a basic confidence which I find very striking. It’s not as if everywhere is in decline and low morale.

That’s not to ignore the points of strain and the challenges – like all churches we face huge challenges. I don’t sense, though, that in the majority of parishes there is a massive crisis of confidence. The decline in Sunday worshippers, which again affects all the churches, seems to have slowed a bit and we are beginning to realise that we have got to count in those who don’t worship on Sundays for whatever reason – those who, if you like, slip through the net of counting and what we get is not a straight downward graph but a diffused pattern of loyalty to the Church much more varied than it was a generation ago. And at the same time also we have a rising number of candidates for ordination, quite startlingly in a way. Having said last year that I thought we needed a really substantial percentage increase in candidates under 30, I look at the statistics this year and rather to my surprise they seemed to have got it. But shaping and being shaped was the question wasn’t it? I think it does still shape culture to a remarkable extent and the first of the two areas where this is most obvious is education, where it is still quite clear that people at large have an investment in a religious dimension to education, however much columnists in certain newspapers don’t like it. The other area is this question of partnership, regeneration, and the fact that in so many areas of our country the Church is the only organisation that has a non-negotiable long-term presence in the community. The building, the priest, the very fact of a regular activity, a resource for the community, a professional who lives in the middle of the community and doesn’t commute in – these are shaping things. It is partly because of that there remains this sense that the Church is there for people and exercising a kind of pull.

Shaping on the wider stage, the country as a whole, harder to say. It is interesting that, in talking about the reform of the Lords for example, there is a surprising reluctance on the part of those discussing it to say: “Well, we can just dispense with the bishops and / or the guaranteed religious element.”

Does this not tie in with the twinning of Anglican identity with Britishness? Do you think that can both hold the Anglican Communion back and hold it together? I think what we are seeing is the swings and roundabouts of that. There is something about the involvement of the Church of England in the British political identity that is a very useful springboard for the work of the Gospel, but it something also that can be a bit of straightjacket in the global Church as it emerges. Part of my job, having a role in England and a role in the Communion, is trying to ride those two horses.

Your book on St Teresa of Avila suggested that you have a quite remarkable affinity for the Catholic world, for its saints, theologians and artists. Could you tell me about your relationship with the Catholic Church and how it has influenced your life?

The Welsh environment in which I grew up was, on the whole, deeply suspicious of Catholics. Catholics were foreigners: Irish, Italian or Spanish. You might be surprised to know there was a substantial Spanish community in the upper Swansea valley in the mid-20th century. The Spanish were right out of consideration; the Irish were just a local nuisance; the Italians were tolerable just because they had very nice ice-cream shops. When we started attending a rather more Anglo-Catholic parish church in Swansea that was a sort of gentle introduction to an awareness of other kinds of priority and shape for worship. We’d moved house; we’d moved from a context in which we had been regular members of a Presbyterian chapel to a village where the parish church was the most important religious presence, which we loved, and the whole family had flung itself into enthusiastically. It was a curate in the parish who, when I was about 14, lent me some of his books to read, including St Teresa’s autobiography. So I was beginning to find my way in this, to understand a bit about the monastic tradition, about traditions of prayer. The teaching we had in the parish was solidly sacramental, very much focused on the Eucharist. It was old-fashioned High Churchery, but with very serious emphasis on the centrality of the Sunday morning parish Eucharist and the daily Mass in the parish. That’s what I grew up with and it still forms who I am and what I am as a Christian. And an interest in both history and literature in school intensified that. All of that helped me find my way a bit into the Catholic world.

How close did you get to becoming a Roman Catholic?

I thought about it a lot for several years, during most of my student years. That was a time when the biggest influences on me were coming from one or another kind of Catholic environment. I was reading St John of the Cross and a lot of that tradition. I was making retreats regularly at Benedictine monasteries. Also, writers like Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar were the people who got me excited.  And I was thinking about whether my calling was in monastic life and, if so, was it in that sort of context? The thing I couldn’t quite manage was, as it were, signing up to the theology of the papacy as it evolved. I couldn’t cope with Vatican I. And I didn’t think that it was particularly honest to pretend otherwise or cut a corner. So I sat there chewing my nails for quite a while, not quite sure what would emerge. I think it was the experience of teaching theology to Anglican candidates for ordination that made me feel: “Well, they’re coping with it. Perhaps I need to cope with it and offer myself in good faith for ordination in the Anglican Church and see what happens.”

So it would be the decree from Vatican I on papal infallibility that proved the real obstacle?

That’s what I found the hardest, but there were other things that I wasn’t comfortable with: some aspects of the doctrine of grace as it evolved, but I think it was that that was the really tough thing.

What aspects of the doctrine of grace?

Oh, I could never quite get my mind round indulgences and the slightly, without being unkind, mechanical, factory approach.

What attracted you then?

The life of prayer, the life of sacraments. I found that technical side harder. I think that is where my studies of the Eastern Orthodox tradition came in at that point, because I was researching Russian Christianity at that period. That had the kind of scepticism about the papacy and about certain aspects of the doctrine of grace that I thought: “Yeah, OK, I understand those questions.” So that is why I am not…

A Catholic?


Last year the book Father Joe by Tony Hendra appeared. This brought the extraordinary personality of Dom Joseph Warrilow vividly to life. You have described yourself as one of Fr Joe’s “spiritual children”. What did he mean to you?

For several years, everything in terms of nurture and encouragement. His photograph is still on my desk. I think it was, as Tony Hendra describes, the sense of being taken completely seriously and having somebody’s love and prayerful attention just wrapping you around, with no reproach and no agenda – just that sense of, yes, an unconditional love. I have seldom met it in anyone, but there was this remarkable man who was just there in that way. Tony Hendra says at end of the book how surprising it was for him and for many people to find that, where they had thought that they were the really special person for Joe, there were about 500 others. For somebody to give that sense of absolute specialness to quite so many people is amazing. Theirs is a sort of freemasonry of people you bump into and say: “Ah yes, one of Joe’s boys.”

Did you discuss joining the monastic life with him?

I discussed that and all sorts of aspects with him. And the great thing was he never put me under any pressure. He helped me see what was true and what was false. He’d very gently say: “Look, aren’t you being a bit romantic about all of this? Don’t try and be more holy than you need be. Take it gently and say your prayers.”

How would he have answered your concerns about the papal infallibility?

I still remember the conversation we had about it, because it very nearly tipped me over.  He said: “Well, I have always thought of it as being a bit like the promise you make of being obedient to the abbot. You’re in the community. You acknowledge where the leadership is. You just say: ‘OK, I am committed to that.’ Well, if only it were that… but a great man for whom I give thanks constantly.

In 2002 you published a book about praying with icons of the Virgin. Are you that most remarkable of things: a Marian Archbishop of Canterbury?

Well, I’d like to think I was a Christian Archbishop of Canterbury and therefore a Marian Archbishop of Canterbury. The kind of Anglicanism in which I grew up with wasn’t panicked by the idea that a proper devotion to Mary was part of proper Christian practice. It was when I was bishop in Wales that this came home more because I used to take groups from the diocese every year to Walsingham for a week.
We would take quite a big group from the diocese, 90-odd people sometimes. And I remember the first time I took such a group thinking that there is something about this environment and people discovering Mary as a mother and as a sister in the Church, something so life-giving and liberating for people, that I really need to rediscover.

Would you feel uncomfortable with the Marian Catholicism that John Paul II showed?

It is more overt and more emotional than something I feel entirely at ease with. But it is not something I feel repelled by – quite the contrary. It’s a cliché, but I think it’s important that if you take the humanity of Jesus seriously, then you’ve got to understand that that humanity is shaped by Mary.

The American Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor was once invited to a New York literary salon. Over dinner the hostess, who had the power to make or break writers’ careers, said that she believed the Eucharist was merely a “symbol”. Flannery O’Connor replied: “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” Later, O’Connor wrote that there was no other answer she could have given, because the Eucharist “is the centre of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable”.

I think that is a wonderful quote and I want to stand and applaud it.

Is that also true of you?

I think so, but I might want to refine the language a bit. Of course, the Eucharist is a symbol, but I think what Flannery O’Connor was saying is that if it is just a symbol in the sense that it is something detached from what it is about, and it is just working in your mind -- well, no, that’s not it. The Eucharist is not a visual aid and it’s not a jog to memory. It’s an event, an encounter. And if it is not an event in which some utterly earth-shaking change occurs, if it is not an encounter with the risen Christ, well, indeed, to hell with it. It just becomes something that we do as opposed to something God offers or does. That’s at the centre of my own feeling about the Eucharist.

But how close can Anglicanism get to transubstantiation?

I think partly because of the Thirty-Nine Articles giving transubstantiation a very bad press, Anglicans don’t especially want to go down that route. In spite of a lot of very interesting work – P J Fitzpatrick’s book – on the Eucharist, I still think there is a problem being bound to that particular theory of what happens. What I want to say: the bread and the wine, the sacrament, become fully and perfectly the carriers of the agency of Jesus, as fully as his literal flesh and blood are the carriers of his agency and identity. And what that means and how that happens, I am not sure we can carve up quite as neatly as St Thomas.

You are going to have your first extended audience with Pope Benedict XVI later this month. Cynics say there is little point in a meeting between the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, given that, despite frantic ecumenical efforts, the two communions are drifting ever further apart. Barring some extraordinary intervention by the Holy Spirit, full, visible unity is out of the question. What is there left to talk about?

I don’t of course entirely bar extraordinary interventions of the Holy Spirit. But what is there left to talk about? Any number of things, really. I think we simply have to try and understand each other for one thing. Why is it that the ordination of women has become such a touchstone of “yes” or “no” between our churches? At the very least, we need to understand what is happening there. Can we talk about where we see the unity of the Church lying? What do Anglicans mean by the unity of the Church? We need to be pressed on that. Equally, we want to press just how much the papacy has changed and how much it might change – plenty of conversation to go on. But also, and this is a very important strategic point for us at the moment, we are now not two churches competing for a limited market: we are two churches standing in the middle of a secular and unfriendly environment and also in the middle of a world whose practical needs are enormous, needs which the Church is in a unique position to help with.

So what we are trying to do at the moment is to diversify a bit, not just talking about institutional unity but talking about what are the practical means of collaboration, which is why when I go to Rome I am meeting the Secretariat of State and the congregation for evangelisation, not just Christian unity. Yesterday morning Cardinal Martino was sitting where you are sitting and we were talking about how we might better work together on the development agenda in Africa. In Sudan the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches have an extraordinary record of collaboration and we’re trying to work out whether we take that further, especially with education and reconstruction in southern Sudan. So there is quite a lot to talk about, and all of that happens because we feel there is enough in the bag in the way of doctrinal agreement for us to feel we can recognise each other and even though we may have hit the buffers a bit in terms of institutional reconciliation there is actually still quite a lot to do. So I don’t feel gloomy about that.

So the focus is not on Christian unity but on overcoming secularism?

Yes, and to Christian mission and to our common task in resisting the assumptions that are hostile to Christianity. That’s not to say we stop thinking about unity question. Certainly not. And of course we pray every day for the unity of the Church. It’s just a bit harder to see how we get to it.

In his address to the Church of England bishops in June Cardinal Walter Kasper identified women’s ordination as the key problem in relations between Rome and Canterbury. Has the introduction of women priests into the Church of England brought all the benefits that you hoped for and are you therefore satisfied that it was worth the deterioration in relations with Rome that it caused?

Two points. One, I think some Anglicans are quite surprised at just how high up the scale of theological priorities the women’s issue turned out to be. I have often referred to the fact that in the ARCIC document on ministry the whole foundation for theological agreement about what we mean by ordained ministry is sorted, and then there is a footnote saying: “Of course, there is an issue about the gender of people being ordained, but leave that for now.” Now, I think on the basis of that it is a bit surprising that it turned out to be quite so important. But of course in the late Pope’s pontificate a whole lot of new considerations about the theology of the role of women came in and were given quite strong priority in a way which made this much more complicated. So I could express the point crudely by saying it is not just the Anglican Church that has moved: there have been developments in the Roman Catholic Church as well.

The interesting question is: has it been worth it? When the Church of England decided to ordain women as priests I think all sorts of things were going on. But it wasn’t just because we thought it would be useful, but because we thought it was right, that there was actually something about the ordained priesthood carrying and representing the whole body of the baptised that we felt would be lost or obscured if things remained solely male. My own theological view rests very strongly on that conviction: that a baptised woman and a baptised man relate to Jesus Christ in the same way. And if that is the case, I believe that either may be called. So we did it because we thought it was right, knowing something of the price it would exact but not, I think, knowing just how difficult it would be.
Had we known how difficult it would be, would it have stopped us? I suspect not. And that sounds a bit blunt, but I think there was sufficient depth of theological conviction in the Church of England to feel that it would somehow be wrong and no real compliment to the Roman Catholic Church if we held back and said: “Well, you know, we won’t hurt your feelings.”

Perhaps it is ridiculous to say that it happened too quickly…

Two thousand years! No, I understand what you mean – the way it happened and the fact that it began with irregular ordinations in the United States. I just wish that the Communion as a whole could have settled this together, even if that had taken a bit longer. But what we had was one province here, one province there, one saying “no”, the other saying “yes”. That wasn’t the best way of doing it, but given the diffuse way in which the Communion works I don’t quite see how it could have been otherwise.
I don’t think it was too hasty. After all, the discussion had been going for a good 20 years – more than that really – several votes, several synod discussions, innumerable papers. I don’t think it could have been put off much longer.

As for the issue of women bishops, would that thicken the wedge between you and Rome?

It’s certainly not going to make it any easier, and those of us who care about our relations with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are going to find it very hard that this is undoubtedly going to be another cause of concern. But we are in the process at moment of discerning how and when, and I don’t think I want to foreclose on that. I can’t see a theological objection, but we know that the practical cost is high. We all know that and Cardinal Kasper reminded us of that very forcefully.

Do you anticipate the same sort of rebellion as occurred with women priests?

We are undoubtedly going to have internal division. The most time-consuming and energy-consuming thing at the moment in all this is working out how that is dealt with justly and creatively, not just reactively, in a way that honours the convictions of those who can’t go along with this.

But the level of division has not shaken your conviction that it was the right thing to do initially?

No, it hasn’t. It has tested it, it really has, and there have been moments when I have felt that. But I think perhaps what one doesn’t always realise is how very, very normal this has come to feel for the huge majority of Anglicans and it hasn’t undermined what people feel about the ministry of the sacraments. So that now that putting it back in the bottle is not an option.
I don’t think it has transformed or renewed the Church of England in spectacular ways. Equally, I don’t think it has corrupted or ruined the Church of England in spectacular ways. It has somehow got into the bloodstream and I don’t give it a second thought these days, in terms of regular worship.

There can be no going back then?

I don’t see how there can be. I could just about envisage a situation in which over a very long period the Anglican Church thought again about it, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be and I don’t see it at the moment.
I don’t think, practically, there’s going back. It is a matter of containing and managing the diversity.

How disappointed are you that there will be no ceremony in the Sistine Chapel marking the 40th anniversary of the historic meeting between Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey?

I am just delighted that we have been given a chance to pray together and we have been given such generous time in the meeting.
It would have been nice iconically to have a meeting in the Sistine Chapel but I think we also have the sense from 40 years ago that it was unique and now it is routine.

Pope Benedict XVI’s address at Regensburg provoked an outcry in the Muslim world. But the address was not so much a critique of Islam as an attack on Western secularists who seek to exclude the sacred from public life. Did you find the Pope’s argument persuasive? And do you think it can be applied to the present, somewhat hysterical, debate about secularism in Britain?

I don’t think there is any division between us on that matter and some of the interventions I have tried to make recently have been shoving that forward. One of the lectures I will be giving in Rome will be partly about this subject.
I thought the Pope made an extremely interesting point about what we now understand about reason.
And whatever the Emperor Paleologus may have said, the point that reason and faith are not automatic opposites is one we really need to ponder.
We have bought into a view of reason sometimes that is so trivial and functionalist that we need to recover something of the patristic, early medieval sense of the reasoning capacity as part of the image of God.

Is it equally worrying that reason has detached itself from faith, as it is that faith appears to be distancing itself from reason?

Yes, so there are really important markers there. We will want to talk about that.

Do you agree with his term “the dictatorship of relativism”?

I have read what he has said about that not only in his pontificate but also before. Yes, I think the challenge of subjectivism, individualism, the idea that all society can do is gently regulate a set of individual agendas, is a really dangerous view.

Do you think that the British Government has presented multiculturalism in a relativistic manner?

Not necessarily. If what the Government is doing is to allow different communities to have responsible debate in public, then OK. The worry is where Government, or popular opinion, tries to say: “OK, everybody get out of the room. Put the Muslims away in that cupboard and the Christians away in that cupboard and we will have nice reasonable discussion.” But there is nobody there.

You and the Holy Father will have much ecumenical business to discuss. But if you have time for a more general conversation what would you most like to talk to him about?

I think the one obvious answer is Mozart. I know that the Pope is a musician and if we have a chance to talk about something other than theology that would be one of my first choices.

Maybe you could play the piano together?

That would be something: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope playing duets.

Report on Interreligious Youth Meeting at Assisi
"Prayer Does Not Divide But Unites"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2006 ( Here is the report on the interreligious youth meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi. The commemorative event was held recently in Assisi.

Monsignor Felix Machado, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, wrote the report.

* * *

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, organized an International Interreligious Youth Meeting in Assisi from Nov. 4-8, 2006, in order to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for Peace which took place on Oct. 27, 1986, in Assisi.

The goal of the meeting was to pass on to the young generation the "spirit of Assisi" which the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, launched on Oct. 27. The PCID invited about 100 youth from different religious traditions throughout the world; nearly 50 young people represented the Christians and the rest came from other religious traditions.

The program was designed to make the youth discover the "spirit of Assisi" which had prayer for peace at its center; in this way the youth would testify to the truth that "prayer does not divide but unites and is a decisive element for an effective pedagogy of peace, hinged on friendship, reciprocal acceptance and dialogue between different cultures and religions" as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his message for the 20th anniversary of the first Assisi meeting (Sept. 2, 2006).

The response from the various communities and organizations of different religions to the invitations which were sent by H.E. Cardinal Paul Poupard, president, had been overwhelming and encouraging. In fact, leaders from other religions sponsored their respective representatives to the Youth Meeting and contributed to their travel expenses.

The PCID looked after the participants during the meeting. About 45 youth from 29 countries and belonging to Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Sikh, Bahai, Tenrikyo and Brahma Kumari traditions came to Assisi and formed themselves as a family for four days.

Plenary sessions, group and panel discussions and walking pilgrimage to San Damiano and Rivotorto in Assisi had been some of the highlights of the program during the Youth Meeting. The youth were able to taste the Franciscan hospitality and imbibe the sacred atmosphere of Assisi, the city of St Francis and St Clare. The youth were put up in different Franciscan houses in Assisi.

Separate rooms in the Sacro Convento in Assisi were kept at the disposal of the youth of different religions in order for them to spend quiet time in prayer and meditation according to their respective traditions. The participants were welcomed to have their meals in the common refectory by the Friars of the Sacro Convento. The meals were served respecting the traditional religious customs of different religions which were represented at the Youth Meeting.

The Christian participants from around the world formed half of the total number of youth who were present in Assisi: 35 Catholics and 16 representatives of other Christian Churches and communities. The deliberations were conducted in Italian, French and English languages, making available simultaneous translations to the participants.

The young Catholics participated in the Holy Mass which was celebrated on Sunday by H.E. Cardinal [Roger] Etchegaray. On the other days H.E. Cardinal Poupard and H.E. [Archbishop Pier Luigi] Celata celebrated the holy Masses for the Catholic youth.

H.E. Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, joined the opening session on Nov. 5 and formally extended his greetings to the assembly. H.E. Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, secretary, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, welcomed the participants and followed the deliberations throughout the entire meeting. Father Vincenzo Coli, Custode, Sacro Convento, also greeted the participants. H.E. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, chief organizer of the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi in 1986, delivered the keynote address, "Impact of Assisi 1986."

The "spirit of Assisi" has been kept alive by various groups, such as the Community of Sant'Egidio, Tendai Buddhists in Japan, Communion and Liberation, and the Focolare Movement. A representative each from these above-mentioned groups shared with the participants their experiences of the past 20 years. Father Coli also enlightened the participants by introducing them to the Franciscan spirituality.

The youth walked in the spirit of religious pilgrimage from the Basilica of St. Francis to Rivotorto, where St. Francis lived most of his life. On their way to Rivotorto, at the ancient Church of San Damiano, a young Franciscan friar guided the youth in reflection on the conversion of St Francis. At Rivitorto likewise a young Franciscan sister led the youth in meditation on St. Francis' resolve to serve the poor.

On Nov. 6 Kathryn Lohre, representing the World Council of Churches, Geneva, addressed the youth participants on "Upholding Common Values and Respecting the Differences." Ms. Lohre from the Lutheran tradition also took part in a panel discussion which was held on Nov. 7. A Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew and a Catholic joined the panel discussion which was presided over by H.E. Cardinal Paul Poupard and moderated by Father Felix Machado.

Cardinal Poupard also addressed the youth on Nov. 7. In his address he made the youth aware of the present situation of interreligious relations, taking into account some difficulties but above all encouraging the youth to live in hope for future by themselves becoming active protagonists of interreligious collaboration in order to establish harmony in society and peace in the world.

The youth were not passive listeners during the whole meeting. They were encouraged to actively forge bonds of friendship so that upon their return they themselves become active protagonists of peace in their own communities and societies. Creative sessions of interactions had been included in the program. The youth decided to send out a "Message from the Youth to the Youth" as an expression of their hope for a world of harmony and peace; the message was jointly formulated by seven youth participants who represented different religious traditions; they declared it as a conclusion of the meeting.

In the spirit of commitment and with joy and enthusiasm in their hearts, the youth wrote: "We appeal to all people that peace is not something only to be sought in halls of government, but also in the halls of our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our temples, our pagodas, our gurudwaras, our atash berhams, our schools, our work places, our homes and most importantly in our hearts. We will strive to follow the path of peace, guided by the precepts of our respective religious traditions. In the 'spirit of Assisi' and with a united voice, we echo the words of that great ambassador of peace, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, as we cry out: 'Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth Justice and Peace, Forgiveness and Life, Love!'"

The Assisi Youth Meeting concluded in Rome on Nov. 8 when the participants joined the large assembly of 30,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. It was the general audience of the Holy Father. Explaining the deeper meaning of the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI had written to Bishop Sorrentino on Sept. 2, 2006: "We are in greater need of this dialogue than ever, especially if we look at the new generations. Sentiments of hatred and vengeance have been inculcated in numerous young people in those parts of the world marked by conflicts, in ideological contexts where the seeds of ancient resentment are cultivated and their souls prepared for future violence. These barriers must be torn down and encounter must be encouraged. I am glad, therefore, that the initiatives planned in Assisi this year are along these lines and, in particular, that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has had the idea of applying them in a special way for young people."

Addressing the youth who gathered in Assisi from Nov. 4-7, 2006, and who had come to participate in the general audience on Nov. 8, 2006, the Holy Father said: "I am pleased to greet the young people of different nations and religious traditions who recently gathered in Assisi to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace desired by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I thank the various religious leaders who enabled them to take part in this event, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue which organized it. Dear young friends: our world urgently needs peace!

"The Assisi meeting emphasized the power of prayer in building peace. Genuine prayer transforms hearts, opens us to dialogue, understanding and reconciliation, and breaks down the walls erected by violence, hatred and revenge. May you now return to your own religious communities as witnesses to the 'spirit of Assisi,' messengers of that peace which is God's gracious gift, and living signs of hope for our world."

[Text adapted]

Message From Youth, to Youth
"We Were United in a Single Purpose: Praying for Peace"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2006 ( Here is a message from the participants in the interreligious youth meeting that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi. This message was released through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

* * *

Interreligious Youth Meeting
Nov. 4-8, 2006
Assisi, Italy

Message from Youth, to Youth

We came together in Assisi, called from nearly 30 nations and representing 13 religious traditions, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the historic Day of Prayer for World Peace in 1986. Invited by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and sent by our religious communities and organizations, we young people came here to carry forward the flame of peace ignited by our spiritual leaders 20 years ago in these same sacred spaces.

We encountered one another with honesty and sincerity to build up the bonds of fraternity that unite us all as brothers and sisters in our humanity, fashioned by and in God. From our commonly held desires for happiness, justice and truth, we entered into genuine dialogue.

We shared and learned about each other's cultures and beliefs, not to minimize or ignore our differences, but to grow in mutual respect, esteem and understanding. Though we do not share the same religious convictions, we have all inherited the same earth and share a common responsibility to be faithful citizens of society and to be good stewards of creation.

We prayed according to our respective religious traditions, imploring from God the precious gift of peace. While our prayers were offered in different places, languages and ways, we were united in a single purpose: praying for peace. In this way, we testified to the truth that "prayer does not divide but unites and is a decisive element for an effective pedagogy of peace, hinged on friendship, reciprocal acceptance and dialogue between different cultures and religions" as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his message for the 20th anniversary of the first Assisi meeting.

We walked as pilgrims to the site of St. Francis of Assisi's conversion 800 years ago, when God called out to Francis "Go, rebuild my house." Likewise today, in the spirit of our respective religions, we young people hear the call to "Go, rebuild our world," which is too often broken by violence and war.

We appeal to all people that peace is not something only to be sought in halls of government, but also in the halls of our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our temples, our pagodas, our gurudwaras, our atash berhrams, our schools, our workplaces, our homes and most importantly in our hearts.

We will strive to follow the path to peace, guided by the precepts of our respective religious traditions. In the "spirit of Assisi" and with a united voice, we echo the words of that great ambassador of peace, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, as we cry out:

Violence never again!
War never again!
Terrorism never again!

In the name of God,
may every religion bring upon the earth
Justice and Peace,
Forgiveness and Life,

We young people represent a new generation and a new hope. We resolve to return to our families and communities, to be advocates for interreligious and intercultural understanding and respect. We accept the responsibility of continuing the dialogue begun here in Assisi and we fully commit ourselves to working for justice and to be instruments of peace in our homelands and in every corner of the earth.


Neocatechumate Clarifies Meeting With Orthodox
"We Agreed With Patriarchate to Continue In-depth Dialogue"

MOSCOW, OCT. 30, 2006 ( Here is a press release from the Neocatechumenal Way clarifiying the details of a meeting between Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and the initiators of the Neocatechumenate.

* * *

On Oct. 19 took place a meeting between Kirill, metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, president of the Department of Foreign Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, accompanied by Father Mario Pezzi.

Kiko Argüello explained to the Metropolitan the origins and development of the Neocatechumenal Way following the Second Vatican Council's rediscovery of Christian initiation and the Catechumenate for adults.

Kiko also said that there is no intention of proselytism towards the Orthodox faithful, but rather to offer this itinerary of faith formation as a service inside of the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Kirill "pointed to the need of a greater in-depth look to the respective spiritual traditions, so as to see whether the ideas of modern religious movements correspond to the theological tradition of the Orthodox Church."

Metropolitan Kirill asked Reverend Igor Vyzhanov, secretary of interreligious relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, to continue this dialogue with the purpose of deepening the understanding.

Should this first stage develop in a positive manner, the second stage would be to examine the possibilities for proceeding with the necessary adaptations within the frame of the ecumenical dialogue so desired by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

"The meeting with Metropolitan Kirill was very cordial and positive," explained Kiko Argüello. "We agreed to begin a series of contacts which, hoping in the Providence of God, may be of benefit to the great task of the New Evangelization also within the Orthodox Church."

Kiko added: "We regret that some misunderstandings may have arisen following media reports regarding the meeting; we are in full agreement with the communiqué of the Patriarchate of Moscow which states that we have not arrived at a final agreement. We had a very positive meeting and we agreed with the patriarchate to continue this in-depth dialogue."

Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was informed beforehand by the initiators of the Way of this meeting.


Statement of Catholic-Orthodox Commission
"Dialogue Has no Alternative"

BELGRADE, Serbia, OCT. 1, 2006 ( Here is the final communiqué of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, following its ninth meeting held in Belgrade, Serbia, from Sept. 18-25.

* * *

The ninth meeting of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church met in Belgrade, Serbia, from Sept. 18-25, 2006, continuing the work begun in 1980 to seek the restoration of full communion.

The Orthodox Church of Serbia generously provided hospitality for the meeting.

The official opening took place in the patriarchal chapel of the Serbian Patriarchate in the presence of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle who welcomed the members of the commission and offered his prayerful support, saying: "…Welcome all of you, to this house of God of our Church and of our people and my home!

"My humble prayer shall cover your theological dialogue of love and truth, for that is why you have gathered here. Of far greater significance, even of sole importance, is that all of you be strengthened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which rectifies all of our shortcomings and heals all of our weaknesses."

The commission invoked the Holy Spirit on its work.

At the first working session in the Sava International Center, the co-presidents Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan John of Pergamon introduced the work of the commission, and Metropolitan Jovan of Zagreb welcomed all present on behalf of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The prime minister of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica, addressed the commission, affirming that: "...The Churches of the East and West are setting an extraordinary example by means of their dialogue, and this theological meeting in Belgrade represents a reference point on the way.

"The greatest gift to contemporary humanity would be to convince people, perhaps first and foremost the political elites, that dialogue has no alternative and that every form of application of force, dictate or imposition of one's own models and solutions -- in service of primarily personal interests -- destroys the last remaining bridges between confronted peoples and communities, instead of building peace, confidence, solidarity and cooperation."

He also hosted a reception and dinner for all the participants.

The Joint Commission is composed of 30 Orthodox and 30 Roman Catholic members, and is chaired by two co-presidents: Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Monsignor Eleuterio Fortino from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, serve as the Joint Commission's secretaries.

The entire Roman Catholic delegation was present in the Belgrade meeting except for two members who were unable to attend.

Orthodox members represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania, the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia and the Church of Finland.

The Joint Commission discussed a text entitled: "The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church," at three levels of the Church's life: local, regional and universal.

That text prepared by the Joint Coordinating Committee in Moscow in 1990 was to have been presented at the plenary meeting of the Joint Commission in Freising, Germany, the same year, but was not discussed then or later because events taking place in Eastern Europe at that time obliged the commission to address the issue of "uniatism" in relation to the ecumenical dialogue.

In the present meeting the document prepared in Moscow was carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity.

A Joint Drafting Committee was appointed to revise the text in the light of the many observations and comments made during the discussion on the text. A revised text will be the object of discussion at the next meeting of the Joint Commission which will be hosted by the Roman Catholic Church, next year, 2007.

During the weeklong meeting the Roman Catholic delegates were present at the Orthodox Divine Liturgy in St. Mark's Church on the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, and the Orthodox members in a Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Ascension of the Holy Virgin of Belgrade at the invitation of Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar.

The members of the commission also had the opportunity to visit the historic Ravanica Monastery. A dinner was offered in the Monastery by Bishop Ignatij of Branichevo. On Sunday evening the president of Serbia, Boris Tadiæ, hosted a dinner at his residence in honor of the Commission.

The meeting of the Joint Commission was marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration. The members of the commission greatly appreciated the generous hospitality of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and they strongly commend the ongoing work of the dialogue to the prayers of the faithful.

Belgrade, Serbia, Sept. 24, 2006


12 August 2006  Exodus under fire  Anthony O'Mahony

A profound series of crises has overtaken Middle Eastern Christianity in modern times. Displacement by war, genocide and interreligious conflict, leading to loss, emigration and exile are the main experiences of its followers. Some observers have even suggested that there is a "Christian barometer" that provides the world with an accurate measurement of the political atmosphere in the Middle East, according to how the Christian minorities are treated.

The theory goes that as the Middle East becomes more free and prosperous, linked to the West and hospitable to minorities and women, the higher the probability that the Christians will continue to live there. The most highly educated and multilingual Christians, who are part of a large diaspora in Europe and North America, may even return. But if Christians sense that things are getting worse, if the  Arab countries they live in lose their commitment to political, economic and religious freedom, they tend to emigrate from the Middle East.

A major testing ground for the future of Christians in the Middle East is Iraq since the fall of the Baathist regime in 2003, and the extent to which they are tolerated today is being watched closely by the Maronites of Lebanon, the Copts of Egypt and other non-Muslim populations of the region.

So far the outlook is troubling. Christians in the country are deeply worried by the rise of radical Islamic tendencies in both the majority Shia and the former ruling class, the Sunni minority. Church bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations have led to large numbers of Christians leaving.

An estimated 200,000 have fled Iraq since the downfall of Saddam. Some are refugees elsewhere in the Middle East region, including around 60,000 in Syria and 40,000 in Jordan. Some states have welcomed these newcomers and hope that they will stay and that their presence will add to a diversity in society, which in turn will help support "moderate" politics. In fact previous generations of displaced Christians, particularly Armenians and other oriental Christians, arrived in Lebanon and made that country (before the civil war of 1975 to 1990) a leading cultural and economic space for the region. Now there are large numbers of Christians (Orthodox and Catholic) in Galilee and south Lebanon who are caught, like so many others, between Israel and Hezbollah.

Elsewhere, numbers are falling. In the last days of the Ottoman Empire, Christians made up 20-30 per cent of the population. Since then, the Armenian genocide in 1915, the massacre of the Syriac Christians near the end of the First World War and the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey (there is still debate about numbers but approximately 1.5 million Orthodox Christians and half a million Muslims) have taken their toll.

Today there are barely 200,000 Christians in Turkey's population of 70 million, although there might be up to two million people of Armenian descent who issue from the large numbers of Christians taken as slaves or forced into Islam at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A number of these each year retrace steps to their, more often than not, grandmothers' original Christian faith. Christians in Syria are down from 20 per cent before the Second World War to fewer than 10 per cent, around 800,000, today.

During the Lebanese Civil War, some 670,000 Christians were displaced, compared with 160,000 Muslims. Hitherto Lebanon had always had a Christian majority, but not now, which has allowed Shia Muslims to emerge as the majority community, and its political organisations, such as Hezbollah, to try to capture the state and challenge traditional Maronite Christian dominance.

In Iraq, since the beginning of the 1960s and the internal war against the Kurds, some one million Christians have emigrated from their northern mountain homelands, with Baghdad gaining large numbers of them and the Chaldean patriarchate relocating there in 1950.

In Egypt, although several hundred thousand mainly Greek, Armenian and Syrian Christians left in the 1950s, the large Coptic Christian population has traditionally not migrated until very recent times; now one estimate is that maybe 12 per cent of Copts live abroad. Meanwhile the Holy Land has seen some 230,000 Christians leaving since 1948, with the Christian population in Jerusalem alone dropping from 30,000 to as few as 5,000 today. In Iran, there may be fewer than 150,000 Christians left after many departed following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Christianity in the Middle East is often obscured, especially from the West. Its history has been a contested one, with followers - Assyrians, Chaldeans, Copts, Maronites - caught between an Eastern Christian identity and a rich, diverse, Arab Christian one. It is frequently forgotten that it was initially the Syriac Christians (and not Arab Islam) who handed on the heritage of science from the ancients through their translations into Arabic.

The Christological controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries produced a three-way split among the Christian Churches that still continues to this day, although it is only among the Churches of Syriac liturgical tradition that all three doctrinal positions are represented. The divisions were originally caused by controversy over how best to describe the relationship between the divinity and the humanity in the incarnate Christ. For the Orthodox and Catholic traditions the matter had been settled by the carefully balanced doctrinal formulation produced by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but this had not been agreed by the Churches of the Middle East by the time of the Arab invasions of the seventh century, at the birth of Islam, when they were politically cut off from those of the Byzantine Empire and the West.

Centuries of Muslim Ottoman domination fossilised the Middle Eastern Churches in their divisions. Initially the Ottoman rulers centralised all Christian authority in their lands within the Patriarchate of Constantinople (followed a few years later by an Armenian Patriarchate). It was not until the nineteenth century that reformist measures allowed these ancient Churches to be formally recognised. Now a combination of contemporary crises and ecumenism are beginning to bring down the barriers. In recent years there have been agreements on many levels, from permission for partial mutual participation in sacraments, to the formation of future priests, catechesis. Christian theologians have been calling for a new evaluation of meaning to this innovative kind of communion that is growing among the Churches of the Middle East. The Christian Churches have become part and parcel of each other in some mysterious way.

One example of this agreement is "The Guidelines for Admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East" (the two principal Iraqi Christian communities) issued by the Holy See in 2001. This allows for a Chaldean Catholic or a member of the Church of the East to take Communion at each other's liturgy if "pastoral necessity" required, "as there cannot be a priest for every local community in such a widespread diaspora".

Although large-scale emigration out of the Middle East has been disastrous from the point of view of the life of the indigenous Christian Churches in the Middle East, there have been at least two good consequences. Emigration to Western countries has provided the possibility of publication without censorship, and it has brought the existence of non-Chalcedonian Churches more into the awareness of the Western Churches, thus providing an opportunity and incentive for theological dialogue.

The rich pluralism of traditions in the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch (covering the territories of Lebanon and Syria) has suffered many divisions in the course of history. As a result, today five patriarchates bear the title of the See of Antioch. During the past decades, a growing awareness of the absurdity of this situation has induced new efforts to re-establish communion among the different traditions. The Greek Orthodox patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim has sought to revive a synodical process involving all the Churches of the region, meeting and working together on a regular basis in the social and pastoral fields.

The most remarkable initiative in this area is the pastoral agreement between the Greek Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox patriarchates of Antioch in 1991. As far back as 1974, meetings took place between the synods of the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic patriarchates with a view to re-establishing unity on the local level, without waiting for an agreement on the universal level. However, this alarmed the Holy See and representatives of Eastern Orthodox authorities, who reminded these Churches that theological exchange must not be limited but instead involve the wider Catholic and Orthodox confessions to which they belong.

Despite this, both Churches continued to develop relations. When the Syrian Government allocated areas in a recent new urban development for the construction of a mosque and a church, Christians were presented with an awkward problem: which Christian community would build the church and who would be the owner? In February last year, the Church of St Peter and St Paul in the Doummar quarter in Damascus was jointly consecrated by the two Churches' patriarchs.

Modern times have brought about a profound change in Christianity in the Middle East. The Christian communities have lost many of their most educated and young members, and in some places more men than women have left. Christian women then marry Muslim men, fracturing the Christian population and diminishing it, with implications for property rights and children's education.

Yet, despite the many millions lost to emigration, other diaspora communities have grown correspondingly. Today large numbers of non-indigenous Christians have come to live and work in the region, brought in by the global economy. Around 250,000 Christian workers are estimated to be in Israel, made up of Eastern European (for example 60,000 Romanians) and Asian workers. There are large numbers of mainly Catholic Filipinos, and increasingly Sri Lankans, Indians and Africans in the area. Around 140,000 Asian workers live in Lebanon, 80 per cent of whom are women. At times the traditional Churches are slow to provide for them.

In this changing situation, patterns of authority have altered, somewhat marginalised by secular politics, and the patriarchs of the different Churches have emerged as significant voices for Christianity in the political public square. In the context of the profound social and economic dislocation created by modernity, political upheaval, lack of legitimate political structures, and religious revival that have brought these traditional loci of authority to the fore, we think of the public role of the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda in Egypt, the Maronite Patriarch Sfeir in Lebanon, and Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land, to name but some.

Christianity has its historic roots in the Middle East. Now, against a background of displacement, newcomer Christians have arrived. However it is still, at this point, difficult to predict the future configuration of Christianity in the region.

Anthony O'Mahony is director of the Centre for Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue at Heythrop College, University of London, and has recently edited Christianity in the Middle East (2006) and Christianity and Jerusalem: Theology and Politics in the Holy Land (2006).


Methodists Join Declaration on Justification
Agree to 1999 Statement Signed by Catholic Church and Lutherans

SEOUL, South Korea, JULY 28, 2006 ( The World Methodist Conference meeting in South Korea signed the joint declaration on justification that the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation had signed in 1999.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, attended the July 20-24 meeting, and said that the gesture is "a gift from God" and "one of the principal successes of ecumenical dialogue," reported Vatican Radio.

According to George Freeman, secretary of the Council of World Methodists, the agreement "opens the door to new ecumenical relations."

Ishmael Noko, secretary-general of the World Lutheran Federation, also expressed his appreciation, and expressed his desire that other Christian communities, such as the Reformed churches, the Anglicans and the Orthodox, could also agree to this common position.

The joint declaration, expressing a consensus between the Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church on the doctrine of justification, was signed in Augsburg, Germany, in 1999.

Late last year, Benedict XVI received a delegation of the World Methodist Council, led by its president, Bishop Sunday Mbang of Nigeria.

At the time, the Holy Father said: "Should the World Methodist Council express its intention to associate itself to the joint declaration, it would contribute to the reconciliation that we ardently desire and would be a significant step toward the objective of full and visible unity in the faith."

Englishman John Wesley (1703-1791) founded the Methodists as a movement of spiritual, missionary and social renewal.


On Catholics and Pentecostals
A Historical Overview

VATICAN CITY, JULY 20, 2006 ( Here is the report "Catholics and Pentecostals: A Historical Overview," by Father Juan Usma Gómez, official of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.


An April 2005 meeting in Los Angeles, U.S.A., commemorated the first centenary of the Pentecostal Movement.

The chronicles recount that at the beginning of the 20th century, a group of believers was expelled from the Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles because of its constant insistence on the need for a spiritual revival. The search for these revivals, a practice that has been more or less widespread in Protestant milieus since the advent of Methodism in the 19th century, involved a special kind of prayer and worship which, stimulated by intense preaching and prayer meetings, often resulted in an upsurge of religious zeal.

In 1905, instead of breaking up and joining other Christian communities, this little group of the faithful began to meet in a house on Bonnie Brae Street, under the direction of William J. Seymour. There a new Pentecost was preached and they prayed for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, just like the one described in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 2:1-21) (1).

Historians tell us that news of this initiative spread rapidly across the city and that many other people joined the group. It soon became necessary for it to relocate to larger premises on Azusa Street, where the Apostolic Faith Mission was set up.

The first religious service took place on April 14, 1906. The story says that it was actually in Azusa Street that a large number of the faithful experienced the "personal Pentecost," in other words, that spiritual experience generally recognized as the beginning of Pentecostalism, which was later to be called "Baptism in the Holy Spirit."

Reactions to this event were varied and conflicting. Those who received the "anointing" spoke of it as the sovereign touch of God, whereas leaders of the Protestant and Evangelical Communities kept their distance, fearing that such an experience could not have solid spiritual and doctrinal foundations.

Especially in light of the manifestations that accompanied it, they began to doubt the "mental health" of the protagonists (2). Today, 100 years after the events on Azusa Street, there are numerous Pentecostal groups, either local or part of a real international network (3).

No organic institutional unity

Although they all describe themselves as Pentecostal, there are slight structural differences between them; while three important trends can be identified, there is no organic institutional unity among them nor a totally representative world structure.

Many claim, on the other hand, that the spiritual unity which derives from "Baptism in the Spirit" is a fundamental and sufficient bond.

In addition to the properly Pentecostal denominations (classical Pentecostals), Pentecostal groups exist within the various Churches and ecclesial communities: (denominational Pentecostals, such as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal); many others define themselves as non--denominational, neo-charismatic and independent.

To these can be added a long list of groups of a dubious ecclesial and Christian character that can hardly be called religious but that carry out activities using Pentecostal forms.

In 2005, it was calculated that there were 500 million Pentecostals.

Certain studies forecast a growth of 2.25% in comparison with the 1.23% (4) increase in the world population. It should be noted that these figures also include Christians who live Pentecostal spirituality in their own Churches and those who occasionally come into contact with the Pentecostal reality. Also, there are no statistics for those who have abandoned Pentecostalism.

During the 100 years of its existence, Pentecostalism has come into contact with almost all Christian communities, but in different ways, as we will see later.

In fact, the openness of the first groups who offered the grace of "Baptism in the Spirit" as a source of spiritual renewal was followed by a clash in the area of mission due to the rejection by the other Christian Communities: the Pentecostal certainty of salvation obtained through "Baptism in the Spirit" and the fear of being found guilty by God for failing to convert those who say they are Christians (but not Pentecostals) obviously imbues Pentecostals with missionary zeal.

Pentecostals and Catholics

With regard to Catholics, this movement, born as a reaction to a "dead orthodoxy" and a "Christian nominalism," has retained its negative attitude: the identification of Rome with Babylon, inherited from the Reformation, has not entirely disappeared.

The situation changed with the recognition of the Pentecostal experience within the Christian communities and consequently does not make a change of ecclesial affiliation necessary. Pentecostals recognize bonds of communion with charismatics: they claim, in fact, that the Holy Spirit works excellently in those believers who have received "Baptism in the Spirit" independently of the Church to which they belong. But this spiritual unity, which has given rise to certain missionary associations and alliances, does not legitimize Christian Communities as such.

Catholics and Pentecostals meet all over the world and confront each other everywhere. Aggression and diffidence have frequently been at the root of their relations: the desire to convert clouds minds and hearts. Pentecostals have difficulty in recognizing the saving value of the Catholic Church and of the sacraments, whereas many Catholics view with suspicion the proliferation of divine interventions and consider the promises of healing, prophecies and spiritual gifts as forms of proselytism.

The Catholic-Pentecostal international dialogue began in 1972. It should be remembered that 40 years ago, Catholics were in the dark about Pentecostal spirituality and missiology. Nor did the majority of Pentecostals know of the rich spirituality and missionary vitality of Catholics. Catholics and Pentecostals were diffident and wary of each other.

The contact established between them, thanks to the appearance of Catholic Charismatic Renewal together with the participation of a Pentecostal leader in the Second Vatican Council (5), made it possible to initiate a dialogue with several leaders and groups of the classical Pentecostals. This dialogue aimed at deepening their knowledge of each other and at overcoming reciprocal misunderstandings.

Today, through documents published for the International Catholic Pentecostal Dialogue, Catholics and Pentecostals (6) can recognize certain confessional traits proper to their dialogue partner and can understand the basic reasons for some of their attitudes. The process is far from easy. Indeed, their missiology and _expression of spirituality are not the same, while their approach to theology is radically different.

How does one become Christian?

These differences have emerged even more clearly in the current phase of dialogue (the fifth, since the beginning of the conversations), which addressed, in the context of biblical and patristic testimony, the theme of how one becomes a Christian. Common and complementary points in faith, conversion, the following of Christ, experience and formation were identified.

On the other hand, regarding "Baptism in the Spirit," a basic experience for Pentecostals, doctrinal differences emerged within Pentecostalism itself, together with the need for a pastoral rethinking, given that not everyone has had this experience.

Many people consider Pentecostalism as the last fruit of the Reformation. Its minimal ecclesial structure, missionary zeal, doctrinal simplicity and openness to the "supernatural," as well as its cultural flexibility, strong emotional connotation and ability to give rise to religious experiences, give it a special character of its own.

The urgent need to have and to inspire the vital experience of the Holy Spirit and the certainty of salvation explain part of its fascination and success. In this regard, during the September 2005 (7) Study Seminar organized jointly in São Paulo by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the bishops' conference of Brazil, Cardinal Walter Kasper presented the bishops' work, saying: "A critical examination of our pastoral conscience is urgently necessary. We must ask ourselves: why are Catholics leaving our Church and moving to these groups? What is lacking in our parishes? What can we learn from the pastoral closeness of Pentecostals? What must we avoid?"

Whenever addressing Pentecostalism, it must be remembered that to Pentecostals, having and awakening religious experiences is essential. The very fact that the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement is perceived as a new and definitive movement of divine origin, a sign of the last times, and that it presents "Baptism in the Spirit" as "an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that precedes the coming of Jesus Christ" and is obligatory as such if one desires to be a Christian, poses serious theological problems for Catholics.

It is clear to Catholics that the experience known as "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" (totally distinct from the sacrament of baptism) is neither the loftiest nor fullest form of experience of the Holy Spirit. It is one experience among others that is a feature of a certain spirituality within Christianity and demands serious and continuous spiritual and pastoral discernment on the part of the Church.



(1) Cf. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Grand Rapids, 2001.

(2) A description from the press of the time is included in J. Usma, Catholics and Pentecostals: the breath of the Spirit, in L'Osservatore Romano Italian edition, n. 20, January 26, 2005.

(3) In which, among others, the Assemblies of God, the Quadrangular Church, the Church of God, the Apostolic Faith Mission and the Open Standard Bible can be mentioned.

(4) D. Barrett, T. Johnson and P. Crossing, Missiometrics 2005: A Global Survey of World Mission, in "International Bulletin of Mission I", vol. 29, January 2005, p. 29.

(5) The leader, David du Plessis, took part as a guest of the Secretariat for Christian Unity in the third session of the Second Vatican Council.

(6) The two documents most recently published for this dialogue are Perspectives on Koinonia (1990) and Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness (1997).

(7) Further information on this meeting can be found in: "Study Seminar organized in Brazil," L'Osservatore Romano Italian edition, November 4, 2005, p. 4.


(News analysis:)  Anglicanism at the Crossroads
Changes Put Future of Church in Doubt

NEW YORK, JULY 15, 2006 ( Recent decisions by the Anglican Church in Britain and the United States have raised the specter of further splits. Last weekend, the Church of England's Synod voted in favor of allowing women to be ordained bishops.

Already 14 out of the 38 autonomous Anglican churches in other countries have approved women bishops, reported the BBC on Monday. The British decision, however, was important given the status of England as the home of Anglicanism.

During the Synod debate the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, told participants that bishops had a special leadership role in the Church, and that just because it had women priests, it did not mean that women bishops were legitimate, the BBC reported. In the end the vote was 288 in favor of women bishops and 119 against.

The vote in favor of women bishops came shortly after data revealed the increasing presence of women clergy. Fourteen years after the go-ahead for women priests in the U.K., 283 women were recommended for the seminary last year, compared with 295 men, reported the London-based Times newspaper, June 24.

The experience of the Anglican Church in Britain was recently analyzed by Hilary De Lyon, chief executive of the Royal College of General Practitioners. She contributed a chapter to the study "Production Values: futures for professionalism," published June 22 by the U.K. think-tank Demos.

The first women deacons were ordained in 1987, and women were permitted to enter the full priesthood in 1994, explained De Lyon. Although it has been only 12 years since women were first ordained, they already make up over 20% of clergy, and hold 50% of the unpaid posts held by priests. In addition, they hold only one in six of the paid posts and one in five of the chaplaincy posts.

Two-tier church

The latest vote comes after a long period of tensions in the Anglican church. Shortly before the Synod meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that all the national churches would be asked to sign a covenant declaring they believed in the basic biblical tenets of Anglican doctrine, reported the Times newspaper, June 28.

Williams threatened that those who refuse to sign the declaration would be excluded from full membership of the Church and would instead become "associates." The proposal will be discussed by the Anglicans at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Anglican disunity is not the only threat; ecumenical relations are also in doubt. Before last weekend's vote Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, warned that allowing women to be ordained bishops would further complicate attempts to achieve unity.

In comments reported by the Times, June 7, the cardinal said that as it was, the ordination of women as priests had led to a "cooling off" in the relations between the two churches. The advent of women bishops would cause a "serious and long-lasting chill." He also warned that: "Without identity, no society, least of all a church, can continue to survive."

American divisions

On the other side of the Atlantic, the American branch of the Anglican Church, the Episcopalians, continues to be riven by disputes. In May, Episcopalians in San Francisco did avoid electing a homosexual as local bishop, reported the Washington Post, May 7. Instead they chose Mark Handley Andrus, currently the bishop suffragan from the diocese of Alabama.
Andrus ran against six other candidates, three of whom live openly with same-sex partners, according to the Post article.

But the following month controversy arose over the election by the Episcopal General Convention of Nevada bishop, Jefferts Schori, as its leader in America. She is the first woman to head a national grouping of the Anglican Communion, reported the Washington Post, June 19.

Her election immediately raised concerns. Schori had backed the election of a declared homosexual, V. Gene Robertson, as a bishop in 2003. Before this, no openly homosexual bishop had ever been consecrated in the history of the Anglican Church. Moreover, the same meeting of American Episcopalians that elected Schori refused to impose a moratorium on the election of additional homosexual bishops, reported Reuters, June 20.

Reacting to the election of Schori, the Bishop of Rochester, England, Michael Nazir-Ali, said that divisions between liberals and conservatives were so profound that a compromise was no longer possible. His comments came in an interview published June 19 by the British newspaper, the Telegraph.

"Anglicans are used to fudging things sometimes, but I think this is a matter of such seriousness that fudge won't do," said Bishop Nazir-Ali.

Nigeria's Anglican bishops had even stronger words, saying that the U.S. branch is "a cancerous lump" that should be "excised," reported the BBC on July 4.

Doubts over where Schori will lead Episcopalians were raised by her statements in the days following the election. In a sermon shortly after her election she referred to "our mother Jesus," reported the Times, June 22.

Then, in an interview published in the July 17 issue of Time magazine, Schori was asked: "What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?" She replied saying: "Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus."


The sort of priorities outlined by Shori were strongly criticized by Charlotte Allen, Catholicism editor for Beliefnet, in an opinion article published July 9 by the Los Angeles Times. The fragmentation of Anglicanism, she explained, is not just due to doctrinal disputes. "It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity," she said.

Liberal Christianity was hailed as the future of the Christian Church, but Allen observed, all the churches and movements within churches that have "blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating."

"When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members" argued Allen. As recently as 1960 churches such as the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today the number has plummeted to around 12%.

Allen cited data from the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, showing that in 1965 there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million.

Her comments echoed the thesis of the book, "Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity," (Sentinel) published last year. According to author Dave Shiflett, Americans are leaving liberal denominations for churches that preach strict moral norms and uphold traditional beliefs.

Liberal theologians and bishops get plenty of media coverage, observes Shiflett. But the average churchgoer wants to attend a church where they can get something not obtainable elsewhere, which doesn't include trendy opinions on current topics. "They want the Good News, not the minister's political views or intellectual coaching."

Shiflett explained that data from the Glenmary Research Center on church membership showed that conservative congregations are growing fastest. This includes the Southern Baptist Convention, up 5% in the decade 1990-2000; and Pentecostal groups such as the Assemblies of God, and the Church of God, up 18.5% and 40% respectively, in the same period.

As a general observation, churches that adhere to traditional teaching, offer transcendent truth and demand a high commitment from their members are those that enjoy growth. Following the latest liberal trends, on the other hand, leads to decline. Something for all Christians to consider.


Message From World Summit of Religious Leaders
"Let Us Preserve Peace Given to Us by the Almighty"

MOSCOW, JULY 6, 2006 ( Here is the message the World Summit of Religious Leaders issued on Wednesday in Moscow.

* * *
We, participants in the World Summit of Religious Leaders -- heads and delegates of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Shinto religious communities in 49 countries, met in Moscow on the eve of the Group of Eight Summit. Having at length discussed issues of mutual concern, we now appeal to the Heads of States, to our religious communities and to all people of good will.

We believe that the human person is religious by nature. Since the dawn of history, religion has played the key role in the development of thought, culture, ethics and the social order.

With the ever-growing role of faith in contemporary society, we want religion to continue being a solid foundation for peace and dialogue amongst civilizations, and not to be used as a source of division and conflict. Religion has the potential to bind together diverse peoples and cultures despite our human fragility, particularly in today's context of plurality and diversity.

Human life

Human life is a gift of the Almighty. Our sacred duty is to preserve it, and this should be the concern of both religious communities and political leaders.

Dialogue and partnership among civilizations should not just be slogans. We need to build a world order which combines democracy -- as the way of harmonizing different interests and as people's participation in national and global decision-making -- and respect to the moral feeling, way of life, various legal and political systems, and national and religious traditions of people.

Comprehensive, just and durable solutions of international disputes should be reached by peaceful means. We reject double standards in international relations. The world should have many poles and many systems, meeting the requirements of all individuals and nations rather than matching lifeless and oversimplified ideological patterns.

The human being is the Creator's unique creation whose existence reaches into eternity. Humans should not become either a commodity or an object of political manipulation or an element of the production and consumption machine.

Conception till natural death

It is, therefore, necessary to assert constantly the highest value of human life from conception to the final breath and natural death. Thus the family needs support today, for it is the privileged context for cultivating the free, intelligent and moral personality. We call for more assistance to the family, particularly in its formative mission by national and international law and the practice of states, various public institutions, religious communities and the mass media.

Linked to this is our concern for the status of women and children in many societies. Promoting the unique character of every person, women and men, children and the elderly, as well as people with disabilities, we see that they all have their special gifts. Protecting them from violence and exploitation is a common task for authorities, society, and religious communities.

The human being is the supreme creation of the Almighty. Therefore human rights -- their protection and respect at the national, regional and international level -- are an important concern for us. Nevertheless, our experience also shows that without an ethical core, without understanding our duties, no society or country is exempt from conflict and collapse.

Freedom and rights

Sin and vice ruin both the individual and the society. For this reason we are convinced that law and social order should seek to bring together in fruitful harmony a commitment to rights and freedom as well as an awareness of the ethical principles that are constitutive of human living together.

We state the importance of religious freedom in today's world. Individuals and groups must be immune from coercion. No one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own beliefs in religious matters. It is also necessary to take into account the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

We condemn terrorism and extremism of any form, as well as attempts to justify them by religion. We consider it our duty to oppose enmity on political, ethnic or religious grounds. We deplore the activities of pseudo-religious groups and movements destroying freedom and health of people as well as the ethical climate in societies.

Using religion as a means for rousing hatred or an excuse for crimes against individuals, morality and humanity present a major challenge today. This can be effectively addressed only through education and moral formation. School, mass media, and preaching by religious leaders should return to our contemporaries the full knowledge of their religious traditions which call them to peace and love.

Ethical values

We call for an end to any insult to religious feelings and defilement of texts, symbols, names or places held sacred by believers. Those who abuse sacred things should know that it wounds the hearts and stirs up strife among the people.

Through education and social action, we must reassert sustainable ethical values in the consciousness of people. We believe these values to be given to us by the Almighty and deeply rooted in human nature. They are shared by our religions in many practical ways.

We feel responsible for the moral condition of our societies and want to shoulder this responsibility in working together with states and civil associations enabling a life where ethical values are an asset and a source of sustainability.

Economy and resources

Human life is also interrelated with economy. International economic order, as all other spheres of global architecture, should be based on justice. All economic and business activities should be socially responsible and carried out using the ethical standards. It is this that makes the economy really efficient, that is, beneficial to the people.

A life lived only for financial profit and facilitating production progress becomes barren and meager. Being aware of this, we call on the business community to be open and responsible towards the civil society, including religious communities, at the national and global levels.

It is imperative that all governments and the business community alike be responsible stewards of the resources of our planet. These resources, as given to all generations by the Creator, should be used for the benefit of everyone. All nations have the right to use their resources, sharing them with others, as well as to develop technologies for their effective use and preservation.


The responsible distribution of the earth's richness, in addition to just international trade and active humanitarian involvement, will help overcome the poverty and hunger suffered by billions of our brothers and sisters. Poverty and social vulnerability become the cause of mass migration generating more and more problems in both poor and rich countries.

The concentration of the majority of the world's wealth in the hands of a few, while an enormous number of people, especially children, live in abject poverty, is a global tragedy. It will most definitely continue to destabilize the world, threatening global peace. We call upon all nations to return to a life of moderation, self-restraint and active justice. This will secure a hopeful future for upcoming generations and effectively function to cut the ground out from under the feet of extremists and terrorists.

Today's challenges

The governments, religious communities and peoples of the world should work together to face the challenges of today, such as infectious disease epidemics, particularly AIDS, as well as drug addiction, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

No country, regardless of wealth and power, can cope with these threats on its own. We are all interconnected and share a common destiny. This requires concerted and united action by all member states of the international community. Moreover, the spread of diseases is not a concern for doctors alone, and the dissemination of lethal technologies is not a problem for law-enforcers alone. These challenges should become a common concern for the whole society.


Interreligious dialogue should be maintained by the religious leaders and experts, and be enriched by the contribution of ordinary believers. It is inappropriate, and history shows that it is dangerous, for the actions of religious communities to be dictated by political interests. We also deplore attempts to artificially "merge" religious traditions or to change them without the will of their adherents in order to bring them closer to secularism.

Our communities are also ready to develop dialogue with the adherents of non-religious views, with politicians, with all civil society structures, with international organizations. It is our hope that such a dialogue continues, permitting religions to contribute to concord and understanding among nations, a common home founded on the truth, built according to justice, vivified by love and liberty.

This dialogue should be conducted on an equal footing, in a responsible way and on a regular basis, with openness to any themes, without ideological prejudice.

We believe that the time has come for a more systemic partnership of religious leaders with the United Nations.

Making a special appeal to all the believing people, we urge them to respect and accept one another regardless of their religious, national or other differences.

Let us help one another and all well-intentioned people in building a better future for the entire human family.

Let us preserve peace given to us by the Almighty!

July 5, 2006


Cardinal Kasper's Statement to Moscow Summit
"There Cannot Be Peace Without Justice Grounded on Mutual Respect"

MOSCOW, JULY 5, 2006 ( Here is Cardinal Walter Kasper's statement made at the Summit of World Religious Leaders being held in Moscow. Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, headed the Holy See's delegation at this meeting.

* * *

The delegation of the Catholic Church sent by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI expresses its profound appreciation and gratitude for the initiative which His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II has taken, and we are grateful for the invitation to this summit which was extended to us together with other world religious leaders.

I. We regard this summit as important, urgent and very timely in the face of so many problems, conflicts, challenges and dramatic situations in our world today:

-- We are concerned about the problem of peace. We are threatened by ethnic, cultural, national and unfortunately also religious tensions and conflicts; we are confronted with the problem of international terrorism, which misuses religious ideas for perverse ideological purposes, kills innocent people indiscriminately, and spreads fear and horror among the population.

-- We are concerned about the problem of justice in our world, where more than two thirds of the world's population live in inhuman conditions of poverty and misery, whereas others live in prosperity and affluence. In addition, there are situations of exploitation, of discrimination and of oppression of human freedom and of fundamental human rights.

-- We are concerned about the situation of secularism, especially in the Western world, which deprives human values, both personal and social, of their ultimate religious foundation orientation. As a consequence they are marginalized and made relative to the point that relativism and tolerance themselves become intolerant and oppressive. We lament especially the decline of family values.

Finally, secularism destroys religiously founded cultural traditions and leaves people, particularly young people, without moral and religious orientation in a world empty of deeper meaning but full of offerings for superficial and deceptive feelings of momentary happiness. Often alcohol or drugs are used as a support to live in such a world without meaning and as a substitute for authentic happiness.

Obviously, these are only some aspects. But they point clearly to the responsibility of all leaders, political as well as religious; they make us aware of the particular responsibility which religious leaders have in this situation, and I would add: They make us aware of how urgent is the shared responsibility which religious leaders have for the restoration of the moral and social order, for justice and peace.

Christian contribution

II. What is the contribution that we as Christians and we as the Catholic Church have to offer? There is no simple recipe. Such a thing does not exist. But there are principles, which have not been invented yesterday or today, but have been proven by our millennial human experience and tradition, and are ultimately founded in divine revelation.

First: Respect for the human person, and I add, respect for each human person. Christians are convinced that God created the human being, male and female, in his image and likeness so that each human being, regardless of his or her ethnic, cultural, religious or national belonging is of immeasurable value and merits unconditional respect from other human beings.

Each individual has the fundamental right to live in a dignified way according to his or her culture and conviction. Such respect for each human person is the foundation for justice, as justice is the foundation for peace. There cannot be peace without justice grounded on mutual respect.

At the heart of the human person's very nature there stands one's religious conscience. Consequent to this is the moral obligation to follow one's religious calling and seek the truth, and therefore also the need to have free will in religious matters, including the possibility of changing one's religion or even professing oneself atheist.

Openness by states, religious authorities and civil leaders in this regard leads to the effective respect of religious liberty, which, together with Divine Providence, is at the heart of peace between nations, and between the different ethnic and religious groups living side by side in peace and cooperation.

But there cannot be human rights for the individual alone, without responsibility for others and for the common good. There is no freedom without personal and social responsibility; freedom of the individual person is possible only within the context of solidarity towards all.

We are critical of a collectivistic view, just as we are critical of a one-sided individualistic approach to human rights. Individuality and solidarity are the two sides of the same coin. This leads us to conclude that alongside the sense of the dignity of each human person we have to promote the sense of solidarity among people, among ethnic groups, among nations and among religions.

Mutual respect

This brings me to the second point: mutual respect among religions. As has already often been said, there cannot be peace in the world without peace among religions. Obviously, religions are not the same as each other; on the contrary, there are indubitable fundamental differences between them.

Nevertheless, there is one thing they have in common, which is lacking in a merely secularized conception of the world and of human life: religions inspire openness to transcendence and many believe in a divine reality as the foundation and destiny of all reality; therefore they call for respect for what is holy and stand in opposition to today's widespread attitude of cynicism and disrespect towards nature and human beings. Where respect for the transcendent is lost, respect for the human person is in danger as well.

The Catholic Church, at the Second Vatican Council, officially declared: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these (i.e. in non-Christian) religions. She has high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all" (Nostra Aetate, 1).

The Catholic Church feels herself particularly close to Judaism, which belongs to the very roots of Christianity. We condemn all forms of anti-Semitism. After a difficult and complex history we have developed since the Second Vatican Council a new and more friendly relationship on the basis of an effective partnership (cf. Nostra Aetate, 4).

In a similar way the Council expressed "a high regard for Muslims" (Nostra Aetate, 3). With them we share monotheism. Jews, Christians and Muslims call Abraham their common father. Thus we desire friendly relations and good neighborliness with Muslims too.

Nor should we forget the great respect in which the Catholic Church holds the followers of other religions. The very day after beginning his ministry, Benedict XVI received leaders of other religions, which in the words of the Second Vatican Council are described as "striving variously to answer the restless searching of the human heart by proposing 'ways,' which consist of teachings, rules of life, rituals" (Nostra Aetate, 2).

As we respect other religions, we must categorically reject the exploitation, abuse and misuse of religion, especially when it is used as a pretext for hate, oppression and terrorism. God is a name of peace and cannot be used as an argument for killing innocent people. As Pope John Paul II in the Message for the World Day of Peace 2002 said: "Terrorism exploits not just people, it exploits God: it ends by making him an idol to be used for one's own purposes".


Third and last point: The only alternative to the often quoted danger of a "clash of civilizations" is dialogue between civilizations and religions. Today we live in a world where religions no longer live isolated from one another; in the ongoing process of so-called globalization people of different religions are drawing more closely together and often they live side by side.

Thus, religions are called not only to tolerate and respect each other, which is in itself no small thing, but they must go a step further: religions have to continue to dialogue and cooperate with each other for the restoration of moral and social values, for justice and peace in the world.

Dialogue does not at all mean syncretism, i.e. a mixture or confusion of religions or an agreement on the lowest common denominator. Dialogue builds on truth and on respect for truth, as Pope Benedict XVI often emphasizes (cf. e.g. World Day of Peace 2006). Dialogue means to share common values and to transmit them to a world which so urgently needs them. Such a dialogue in truth and in mutual respect implies various aspects:

-- Purification of memories. Each religion can identify the bad deeds of the others; about our own bad deeds we are generally much less keen to speak. Let us be honest and look with fresh eyes at the past, from the point of view of what we have in common and of what we are called to do in common today and tomorrow.

-- Consciousness of our common heritage. Regardless of all our differences, we have common values. The world would look very different should we realize what we have in common. I am thinking not only of the sense of the holy but also of the "golden rule," which can be found in all the main religious traditions: "What you do not wish the other to do to you, you should not do to the other," or in its positive formulation: "All you wish others to do to you, you should do to others."

We also share the common mission of being credible witnesses to the transcendent. This is the core of our shared interest, and necessitates collaboration, particularly with regard to contemporary culture and sociopolitical structures, so that they, too, be open to the transcendent.

-- Education of the younger generation. This point seems to me to be a foremost priority for the construction of a common peaceful future. We should not instill disregard and hatred toward others in the hearts of young people, but should bring them up in the spirit of tolerance, mutual respect, solidarity and responsibility for the common good.

-- Common action. It is time to take common action against oppression and discrimination, against the proliferation of arms and drugs, and for the promotion of tolerance and religious freedom, for justice and peace, for family values, for cooperation in the field of healthcare, e.g. in the battle against the AIDS epidemic, the care for refugees, displaced persons and immigrants, cooperation also in times of disasters and tragedies (tsunami, earthquakes, etc.) and in many other fields.

I would like to close with a point, which seems fundamental to me: As a child I grew up during the horrors of the Second World War. From this traumatic experience I urge you to tell everyone who bears responsibility that war can never be a means to solve problems; war always creates new problems; war is an evil and, insofar as it is up to us, we should do all that is in our power to avoid it and to ban it from the face of the earth.

Let us tell the world: We as religious people stand for peace: Peace of the heart, peace in our nations and between nations, peace between religions and hence peace in the world.


Religion and Politics to Meet in Russia
Interview With Metropolitan Kirill

MOSCOW, JULY 2, 2006 ( Religious leaders have important decision-making roles in world affairs, says an organizer of an upcoming summit of key figures from various faiths.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, spoke to Interfax-Religion days before the July 3-5 summit that will precede the G-8 summit of industrial leaders in St. Petersburg, July 15-17.

In this interview, Metropolitan Kirill speaks of the role religions can play in global events, as well as the status of Orthodox-Catholic relations.

Q: Why is the Roman Catholic Church sending so large and representative a delegation to the summit? Does it suggest a thaw in Orthodox-Catholic relations?

Metropolitan Kirill: The coming of so representative a Roman Catholic delegation can be accounted for by the attractiveness of the very idea of a summit to take place in Moscow. Preparations for it have shown that it has met with a lively response among various religions, and the Catholic Church is no exception.

The idea of interreligious dialogue on burning issues of the global development today has proved to be very much called for. Annually a great deal of meetings on this subject takes place in various countries and on various levels.

The novelty is that the initiator is the Interreligious Council in Russia and that many religious communities have taken an interest in it.

This initiative will give to representatives of religious communities an opportunity not only to discuss important problems of the global development but also to inform the political leaders of the world leading countries about the results of this discussion.

In other words, leaders of religious communities in the world, who are to assemble in Moscow for the summit, will actually propose to begin a serious dialogue between political power and religious communities on a global scale. There has been nothing like this so far.

Q: Recently there has been much talk about Orthodox-Catholic dialogue coming out of a standstill. What changes have been most evident to you?

Metropolitan Kirill: This dialogue has never been at a standstill. Moscow and the Vatican have always kept contact and discussed existing problems.

But you are right in pointing out some positive changes which have taken place recently in our bilateral relations. They have been brought about not only by negotiation efforts, but also the internal work carried out by each Church to understand the developments in the modern world.

In the countries of Catholic and Orthodox tradition, various negative tendencies have grown. There is also growing aggression and intolerance, the continued low birthrate, growing drug addiction and alcoholism, serious epidemics, the increasingly polluted environment and depleting natural resources.

At the same time, society has overlooked the fact that all this happens because of the lack of a system of people's moral education. Religion has been confined to the private sphere, while the social sphere often supports norms contradicting traditional morality.

In the process of our contacts and monitoring the developments, we have discovered that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches have the same vision of the problems facing the world today.

Moreover, our two Churches advocate the same ethical norms. Therefore, we cannot but unite our efforts.

All these ideas were systematized at the major Orthodox-Catholic conference "To Give a Soul to Europe," which took place last May in Vienna.

I would stress that the Russian and Catholic Churches held an event on such a high level for the first time in the last 15 years. Among the important achievements of this conference is the statement adopted by the two sides on the result of its work. It registers the willingness of the two Churches to work together in the modern world in asserting moral values.

It is especially important for the Russian Church that this approach should be systematically realized in countries where the Moscow Patriarchate has pastoral responsibilities. It is also positive that the Catholic side has already begun to adhere to this policy in its work in Russia.

Thus, the head of the Russian episcopal conference, Bishop Joseph Werth, has recently supported the initiative to establish the institution of military clergy in the army, while Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow has changed to positive his view on teaching rudiments of traditional religions in school.

Though Catholics are a small flock in Russia, their attitude toward the Russian Orthodox Church is decisive in many ways in assessing the position of the entire Roman Catholic Church.

To be frank, there are still difficult problems involved in the Catholic missionary efforts in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries. However, there have been some small shifts in this area as well.

Late last year, the joint working group for considering problems in relations between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches resumed its work. That is to say, the mechanism of practical resolution of local conflicts has been activated.

Q: What challenges of the modern world are common to Christians and other religions and what challenges are not?

Metropolitan Kirill: I have already mentioned some negative tendencies faced by modern society. They represent a common challenge to all religions in the world. Each in its place has to deal with them, seeking to make its own contribution to the efforts to overcome them.

Certainly, common challenges are apt to rally even those who otherwise would find it difficult to arrive at a common language. What is most desirable is that we should be united by opportunities for joint creative work rather than threats. I believe these opportunities have become ever clearer.

First of all is the concern for strengthening morality in society. Society is lacking morality but does not take any decisive steps to cultivate it in people. It is a common task of religious communities to persuade politicians and public figures that this lack should be addressed most seriously.

Q: Do you think religious leaders, participants in the Moscow summit, will be able to propose new ways of combating terrorism and extremism which uses religion as a cover? Why does extremism find support today, also among the youth?

Metropolitan Kirill: Because in many countries the secularized society has failed to offer their people any lofty idea of meaning and human activity.

Norms of behavior propagated by the modern mass media and through other public institutions are reduced to consumerism, hedonism, aggression and individualism.

It is against this that various extremist trends normally rise and find support among many people.

Extremism should be deprived of this soil, not only of its financial and communicational basis. It is in this area that religious leaders can make their contribution to combating terrorism and extremism.

But, I repeat, these efforts will help only if society listens to them. Man cannot be saved without him himself, as an old Christian maxim says.

Q: Are there plans to hold separate talks between Orthodox and Catholic representatives at the Moscow summit, and if so, what questions will be addressed?

Metropolitan Kirill: The summit of religious leaders is not certainly a screen for dealing with more important problems, including those in relations with the Catholic Church.

All the aims set by its organizers, that is, the Interreligious Council in Russia, have been clearly stated. Their sincerity could be tested by religious leaders' representatives at the preparatory conference in May.

I should say that even those who had hesitations about the need to come for the summit changed their mind after that conference. The summit with its agenda is important in itself. We have enough possibilities for meetings with Catholics without the summit.

If the leaders of our two Churches have not yet met, it does not mean representatives of our Churches do not meet and talk. At the same time, religious leaders will certainly have bilateral talks on the margins of the summit.

And this is good, though it is not the main goal. I believe there will be such talks with Catholic delegates as well, on very diverse themes.


To Anglicans on Episcopal Ordination of Women (Kaspar)
"Where and on What Side Does the Anglican Communion Stand?"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2006 ( Here is the address Cardinal William Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave to the Church of England bishops' meeting June 5, on the question of ordaining women as bishops.

* * *

I wish to thank the archbishop of Canterbury for the invitation to speak to you as the Church of England House of Bishops on a question which concerns you and therefore also concerns the Catholic Church and me personally as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

I have already had occasion to say to Archbishop Rowan Williams: Our friends' problems are our problems too. In this spirit of ecumenical solidarity I would like to offer you some reflections on the question of the ordination of women to episcopal office. Naturally these reflections are made from a Catholic perspective; I am of course convinced that the decision which you are facing involves us together with you, insofar as it will be of fundamental significance for relations between us in the future.


Today is not the first time we have discussed the subject of women's ordination. Therefore I would like to begin with a brief overview of our previous discussions. The introduction of the ordination of women to the priesthood by some provinces of the Anglican Communion, including the Church of England, was preceded by a lively correspondence between Rome and Canterbury.

Pope Paul VI addressed a letter on this issue to Archbishop Donald Coggan on Nov. 30, 1975, and again on March 23, 1976, and this was followed by a letter from Pope John Paul II to Archbishop Robert Runcie on Dec. 20, 1984. My predecessor in office, Cardinal Jan Willebrands, responded to Archbishop Runcie's reply on Dec. 18, 1985.

On the question of the ordination of women to episcopal office, Pope John Paul II wrote a very earnest letter to Archbishop Robert Runcie of Dec. 8, 1988. The Pope spoke openly of "new obstacles in the way of reconciliation between Catholics and Anglicans" and of the danger of "block[ing] the path to the mutual recognition of ministries."

He made reference to the ecumenical and ecclesiological dimensions of the question.[1] In the joint declarations with Archbishop Robert Runcie on Oct. 2, 1989, and with Archbishop George Carey on Dec. 5, 1996, he addressed this question once more.[2]

I should also mention the declarations by ARCIC[3], and the detailed response to the Rochester Report, "Women Bishops in the Church of England?" by the Department of Dialogue and Unity of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales on Oct. 3, 2005.

The official argumentation of the Catholic Church on the ordination of women is found in the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "On the Admission of Women to the Priesthood," "Inter Insigniores" (1977), and in the apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis," "On reserving priestly ordination to men alone" (1994).

There the Pontiff stated that the Catholic Church was convinced that it had no authority for such ordinations. It therefore considers such ordinations invalid (CJC can 1024).[4]

This position has often been misconstrued as misogyny and denial of the equal dignity of women. But in the apostolic letter "Mulieris Dignitatem" on "The Dignity and Vocation of Women" (1988) and in his "Letter to Women" (1995) Pope John Paul made it clear that the position of the Catholic Church in no way arose from a denial of the equal dignity of men and women or a lack of esteem for women, but is based solely on fidelity to apostolic testimony as it has been handed down in the Church throughout the centuries.

The Catholic Church distinguishes between the equal value and equal dignity of men and women on the one hand and on the other hand the differentiation of the two sexes, which have a complementary relationship with one another.

Similar statements are found in the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "On the collaboration of men and women in the church and in the world" (2004). Benedict XVI reiterated and made concrete this view in his address to the clergy of Rome on March 2, 2006.[5]

I know that this question involves many complex hermeneutical, anthropological and theological problems which I cannot enter into in this context. The position of the Catholic Church can only be understood and evaluated if one recognizes that the argumentation has a biblical basis, but that the Church does not read the Bible as an isolated historical document.

Rather it understands the Bible in the light of the whole 2,000-year tradition of all the ancient churches, the Catholic Church as well as the ancient Eastern and Orthodox churches.

Doubtless, historically conditioned views at times had some influence on this tradition. There are some arguments belonging to the past which we do not reiterate today. We should of course be aware that our contemporary views are also historically contingent in many respects, and that presumably only future centuries will be able to measure just how greatly we have been conditioned by our times; they will presumably chuckle over many things which we take for granted today, just as we do over many ideas of the ancient or medieval world.

On the other hand, it can be academically demonstrated that the rejection of the ordination of women within the tradition was not predicated on contemporary concepts alone but in essence on theological arguments. Therefore it should not be assumed that the Catholic Church will one day revise its current position. The Catholic Church is convinced that she has no authority to do so.


Following this brief review of the discussion regarding the ordination of women to priesthood, I would like to turn now to the current question of the ordination of women to the episcopal office. At first glance it seems to be a virtually unavoidable consequence of the first step, the ordination of women to the priesthood.

The sacrament of ordination is one single sacrament, and access to one step in principle also opens the way to the next step. The reverse conclusion then must be that if women cannot be admitted to the priesthood, then they obviously cannot be admitted to episcopal office either.

Nevertheless, in the ecumenical context the ordination of women to episcopal office confronts us with a new situation relative to the ordination to the priesthood, and represents a considerable further escalation of the problem. Why?

The answer to this question derives from the nature of the episcopal office, which according to the early church as well as to the current understanding of the Catholic Church, is an office of unity. As such it is particularly relevant to ecumenical concerns and aims.

I can here only touch on the foundations of this thesis. My starting point is that unity and unanimity are fundamental words in the New Testament: "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all" (Ephesians 4:5).

According to the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles, unanimity was one of the signs of the first church (1:14; 2:46; 4:24, et al.). The significance of unity in the Church and under the apostles emerges from the way the Church dealt with the conflict regarding the continued validity of Jewish law, which touched on the foundations of Christianity.

After extensive discussions the controversy was settled at that time with a handshake as a sign of communion ("koinonia") (Acts 15; Galatians 2). So "koinonia"/"communio" is a foundational term which gained fundamental significance for the early church, and which in the eyes of many once more occupies a preeminent place in defining the essence of the Church today. The Church is shared participation in the life of God, therefore "koinonia" with God and with one another (1 John 1:3).

So from the beginning the episcopal office was "koinonially," or collegially, embedded in the communion of all bishops; it was never perceived as an office to be understood or practiced individually.

In his history of the Church, Eusebius describes in detail the endeavors to maintain peace, unity, love and communion during the violent conflicts of the second century regarding the correct fasting practices and the dating of Easter (Hist. eccl. V, 23f; cf. VII,5).

The collegial nature of the episcopal office achieves its most impressive _expression in the consecration of bishops. As early as the Council of Nicaea (325) it was stipulated that, if possible, a bishop should be consecrated by all the bishops of a province, or at least by a minimum of three bishops with the consent of the others (can. 4). A synod at Antiochia (341) demanded the presence of at least the majority of the bishops of the province.

The "apostolic constitutions" are even more demanding in their judgments. Anyone who has been consecrated by only one bishop should be deposed (can. 27). In the early church collegial induction into the episcopal office corresponded to the collegial exercise of the office through the exchange of letters, reciprocal visits and above all the joint consultation and formulation of resolutions at the synods or councils.

We are indebted above all to the martyr bishop Cyprian of Carthage for a thorough theology of the episcopal office. His sentence "episcopatus unus et indivisus" is well known. This sentence stands in the context of an urgent admonition by Cyprian to his fellow bishops: "Quam unitatem tenere firmiter et vindicare debemus maxime episcopi, qui in ecclesia praesidimus, ut episcopatum quoque ipsum unum atque indivisum probemus" (And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the church, that we may also prove the episcopate one and undivided).

This urgent exhortation is followed by a precise interpretation of the statement "episcopatus unus et indivisus" : "Episcopatus unus est cuius a singulis in solidum pars tenetur" (The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole) ("De ecclesiae catholicae unitate" I, 5).[6]

Such statements and admonitions recur again and again in Cyprian's letters (Ephesians 55:21; 59:14, et al.). Most familiar is the statement that the Church is the people united with the bishop and the flock devoted to its shepherd: "The bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the bishop, and if anyone is not with the bishop he is not with the Church."

But Cyprian goes even one step further: He not only emphasizes the unity of the people of God with its own individual bishop, but also adds that no one should imagine that he can be in communion with just a few, for "the Catholic Church is not split or divided" but "united and held together by the glue of the mutual cohesion of the bishops" (Ephesians 66:8).

Cyprian's concept has become the norm. The First Vatican Council took up Cyprian's formula of "episcopatus unus et indivisus" and gave it a prominent position (DS 3951); this was later reiterated by the Second Vatican Council ("Lumen Gentium," No. 18), which added depth to the theology of the episcopal office in the early church tradition with the concept of episcopal collegiality (particularly "Lumen Gentium," No. 22f).

Collegiality was not understood simply in terms of an ultimately non-binding collegial frame of mind; collegiality is rather a reality ontologically grounded in the sacrament of episcopal consecration, the shared participation in the one episcopal office which finds concrete _expression in the "collegialitas affectiva" and in the "collegialitas effectiva."

This collegiality is of course not limited to the horizontal and synchronic relationship with contemporary episcopal colleagues; since the Church is one and the same in all centuries, the present-day church must also maintain diachronic consensus with the episcopate of the centuries before us, and above all with the testimony of the apostles. This is the more profound significance of the apostolic succession in episcopal office.

The episcopal office is thus an office of unity in a twofold sense. Bishops are the sign and the instrument of unity within the individual local church, just as they are between both the contemporary local churches and those of all times within the universal Church.

It is one of the heartening experiences of ecumenical dialogue that we have been able to establish that this understanding of the Church as koinonia, and with it the " koinonial" understanding of the episcopal office, is not just a particular Catholic tradition, but an understanding we share with the Anglican Communion. It can be found in the ARCIC conversations from the very beginning.[7]

It can also be found in the Paper of the House of Bishops "Bishops in Communion: Collegiality in the Service of the Koinonia of the Church" (2000), and it has entered into and become fundamental in the Windsor Report (2004). We can thus recognize with gratitude that we share a broad common theological and ecclesiological basis on this issue.

Should we not therefore also be in a position to say together: The decision for the ordination of women to the episcopal office can only be made with an overwhelming consensus, and must not in any way involve a conflict between the majority and the minority.

It would be desirable that this decision would be made with the consensus of the ancient churches of the East and West. If on the contrary the consecration of a bishop becomes the cause of a schism or blocks the way to full unity, then what occurs is something intrinsically contradictory. It should then not take place, or should be postponed until a broader consensus can be reached.


In formulating this last conclusion I have already moved from a presentation of the theological foundations toward the practical questions and conclusions which I would like to address in the following discussion. I do so with inner hesitation and at the same time with pain and sadness. But I believe I can best serve the cause of ecumenism with open and honest statements.

If I see it correctly, the principles I have set out lead to two practical consequences, one for the sphere of the Anglican Communion and the Church of England itself, and one for the interecclesial, ecumenical sphere, and in concrete terms, for the future relationship of the Church of England to the Catholic Church.

If what I have said about the unity of the episcopate and the shared collegial participation in the one episcopate is true, then the mutual recognition of bishops, and in particular the recognition of the validity and legality of their ordination, is constitutive for the unity of the Church.

At issue here is not a purely canonical or disciplinary question which could be solved or bridged by more or less organizational arrangements such as flying bishops, or the creation of a third ecclesial province or such like. Where mutual recognition and communion between bishops does not exist or no longer exists, where one can therefore no longer concelebrate the Eucharist, then no church communion, at least no full church communion and thus no Eucharistic communion can exist.

Arrangements like those I have referred to can only cover over the breach superficially; they can paper over the cracks, but they cannot heal the division; one can even go one step further and say that from the Catholic perspective they are the unspoken institutionalization, manifestation and virtual legitimization of an existing schism.

When such a situation becomes a reality, it is not a purely inner-Anglican matter, but also has consequences for the ecumenical relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. We had invested great hopes and expectations in the Catholic-Anglican dialogue.

Following the historic encounter of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop M. Ramsey on March 24, 1966 [8] -- 40 years ago now -- ARCIC was, together with the Lutheran-Catholic and the Methodist-Catholic dialogues, among the first dialogues we initiated after the Second Vatican Council.

Since that time it has in many respects brought great progress, for which we thank God and all those who have taken part. Thus the meeting of Catholic and Anglican bishops in Toronto-Mississauga (2000) was filled with great hopes.

The progress made relates not least to the question of a shared understanding of ministries. Even in the first phase of dialogue positive results were achieved in this fundamental question, and later we were able to expand upon these gains.[9]

Besides the official dialogue there was a thorough historical and theological discussion of the Bull of Pope Leo XIII, "Apostolicae Curae" (1896) (DS 3315-3319). All of these discussions have not led to a conclusive resolution or to a full consensus, but they achieved a pleasing rapprochement which justifiably aroused promising expectations.[10]

But then the growing practice of the ordination of women to priesthood led to an appreciable cooling-off. A resolution in favor of the ordination of women to the episcopate within the Church of England would most certainly lower the temperature once more; in terms of the possible recognition of Anglican orders, it would lead not only to a short-lived cold, but to a serious and long-lasting chill.

Three provinces within the Anglican Communion have already ordained women to the episcopate; several other provinces have authorized such ordinations, though none have taken place in the latter to this point. These developments already stand as a major obstacle in Anglican-Catholic relations.

But the Catholic Church has always perceived the Church of England as playing a unique role in the Anglican Communion: It is the church from which Anglicanism derives its historical continuity, and with whom the divisions of the 16th century are most specifically addressed; it is the church led by the archbishop of Canterbury who, in the words of the Windsor Report, is " the pivotal instrument and focus of unity" within the Anglican Communion; other provinces have understood being in communion with him as a " touchstone of what it was to be Anglican" (99); finally, it is the church which we in continental Europe directly associate with Anglicanism, in part because of your many Church of England chaplaincies spread throughout the continent.

For us, the Church of England is not simply one province among others; its decisions have a particular importance for our dialogue, and give a strong indication of the direction in which the Communion as a whole is heading.

Because the episcopal office is a ministry of unity, the decision you face would immediately impact on the question of the unity of the Church and with it the goal of ecumenical dialogue. It would be a decision against the common goal we have until now pursued in our dialogue: full ecclesial communion, which cannot exist without full communion in the episcopal office.

Such a decision broadly taken within the Anglican Communion would mean turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the ancient Eastern and the Orthodox churches.

It would, in our view, further call into question what was recognized by the Second Vatican Council (Unitatis Redintegratio, 13), that the Anglican Communion occupied " a special place" among churches and ecclesial communities of the West. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century. It would indeed continue to have bishops, according to the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and West would recognize therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early church and continuing through the ages.

Amidst all of this, the question arises which also occupied John Henry Newman: is the so-called via media a viable path?[11] Where and on what side does the Anglican Communion stand, where will it stand in the future? Which orientation does it claim as its own: the Latin, Greek, Protestant, liberal or evangelical?

It may retreat to the Anglican principle of comprehensiveness and answer: We are a little of everything. Such comprehensiveness is doubtless a good principle to a certain degree, but it should not be overdone, as my predecessor Cardinal Edward Cassidy once told you: One arrives at limits where one must decide one way or the other. For without identity no society, least of all a church, can continue to survive. The decision you are facing is therefore an historic decision.

What follows from these conclusions and questions? What follows for the future of our ecumenical dialogue? One thing is certain: The Catholic Church will not break off the dialogue even in the case of such a decision. It will above all not break off the personal relationships and friendships which have developed over the past years and decades. But there is a difference between types of dialogue. The quality of the dialogue would be altered by such a decision.

Ecumenical dialogue in the true sense of the word has as its goal the restoration of full Church communion. That has been the presupposition of our dialogue until now. That presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to episcopal office.

Following that action we could still come together for the sake of information and consultation; we could continue to discuss and attempt to clarify theological issues, to cooperate in many practical spheres and to give shared witness.

Above all we could unite in joint prayer and pray for one another. All of that is, God knows, not negligible. But the loss of the common goal would necessarily have an effect on such encounters and rob them of most of their élan and their internal dynamic. Above all -- and this is the most painful aspect -- the shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance. Instead of moving towards one another we would co-exist alongside one another.

For many that may seem a more realistic path than what we have attempted previously, but whether it is in accordance with the binding last will and testament of Jesus, "that all may be one" (John 17: 21) is of course another question. The answer would have to be in the negative.

I ask you: Is that what we want? Are we permitted to do that? Should we not ponder what Cyprian tells us, namely that the seamless robe of Jesus Christ cannot be possessed by those who tear apart and divide the church of Christ ("De catholicae ecclesiae unitate," 1,6)?


That brings me back once more in conclusion to a consideration of the fundamental principles. I have quoted our common Church father, Cyprian. In conclusion I would like to refer to another shared Church father, St. Augustine, and to one who must be particularly close to you, the Venerable Bede. Both of them took up Cyprian's ideas.

Cyprian had illustrated his thesis of the "episcopatus unus et indivisus" through a series of metaphors: the metaphor of the sun which has many rays but only one light; of the tree which has many branches but only one trunk grounded in one sturdy root, and of many streams which spring from one single source. Then he states: "Cut off one of the sun's rays -- the unity of the light permits no division; break off a branch of the tree and it can bud no more; dam off a spring from its source, it dries up below the cut" ("De catholicae ecclesiae unitate," 1,5)[12].

St. Augustine took up these metaphors more than once in his text "Contra Cresconium." I will quote just one instance: "Avelle radium solis a corpore, divisionem lucis unitas non capit: ab arbore frange ramum, fructus germinare non poterit: a fonte praecide rivum, praecisus arescit" (Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a the tree -- when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up) (lib II 33.42).

Similarly, the Venerable Bede says in a homily: "Pastores sunt omnes, sed grex unus ostenditur qui ab apostolis omnibus tunc unianima consensione pascebatur" (All are shepherds but one flock is revealed. Then it was fed by all the apostles with harmonious agreement).[13]

"Grex unus, qui unianima consensione pascitur," that is the aim of ecumenical dialogue; it can only succeed if the "unianima consensio" of every single one of the separated churches is preserved and is then constituted step by step between those separated ecclesial bodies. May this, in spite of all the difficulties and resistance, be granted to us one day by the grace of God.


Address of Benedict XVI to the Clergy of Rome on March 2, 2006

"Thus, the Church has a great debt of gratitude to women. And you have correctly emphasized that at a charismatic level, women do so much, I would dare to say, for the government of the Church, starting with women religious, with the sisters of the great fathers of the Church such as St. Ambrose, to the great women of the Middle Ages -- St. Hildegard, St. Catherine of Siena, then St. Teresa of Avila -- and lastly, Mother Teresa.

I would say that this charismatic sector is undoubtedly distinguished by the ministerial sector in the strict sense of the term, but it is a true and deep participation in the government of the Church.

How could we imagine the government of the Church without this contribution, which sometimes becomes very visible, such as when St. Hildegard criticized the bishops or when St. Bridget offered recommendations and St. Catherine of Siena obtained the return of the Popes to Rome? It has always been a crucial factor without which the Church cannot survive.

However, you rightly say: we also want to see women more visibly in the government of the Church. We can say that the issue is this: The priestly ministry of the Lord, as we know, is reserved to men, since the priestly ministry is government in the deep sense, which, in short, means it is the sacrament (of orders) that governs the Church.

This is the crucial point. It is not the man who does something, but the priest governs, faithful to his mission, in the sense that it is the sacrament, that is, through the sacrament it is Christ himself who governs, both through the Eucharist and in the other sacraments, and thus Christ always presides.

However, it is right to ask whether in ministerial service -- despite the fact that here sacrament and charism are the two ways in which the Church fulfils herself -- it might be possible to make more room, to give more offices of responsibility to women."

* * *

[1] Information Service, 70 (1989/I), 60.

[2] Cited in: Growth in Agreement II, Report and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, Geneva -- Cambridge 2000, 327; 371 f.

[3] In the Ministry Elucidations of 1979 n. 5, in: Growth in Agreement I. New York-Geneva 1984, 87; Church as Communion (1990) n. 57, in: Growth in Agreement II, 342.

[4] Other relevant documents: Address by Pope Paul VI "On the Role of Women in the Plan of Salvation," Jan. 30, 1977; Pope John Paul II, apostolic exhortation "Christifideles Laici" (1988) No. 51; Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) No. 1577.

[5] Address of Benedict XVI to the clergy of Rome on March 2, 2006.

[6] Cf. on its interpretation Sources chrétiennes n. 500, Paris 2006,177-179; 184-f; 273-275.

[7] Cf. Authority in the Church I (Venice Statement) (1976), in: Growth in Agreement I, 91-96; Final Report (1981), in: ibid. 65; Elucidation (1981), in: ibid. 103-105; Authority in the Church II (Windsor Statement) (1981), in: ibid. 106-117; Church as Communion (1990), in: ibid. II, 328-343; The Gift of Authority. Authority in the Church III (1999).

[8] Cf. the Common Declaration of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in "Growth in Agreement I," 125 f.

[9] Cf. apart from the documents listed in Notes 3 and 6 Ministry and Ordination (Canterbury Statement) (1973), in: Growth in Agreement I, 79-84 and Clarifications on Eucharist and Ministry, in: Information 1 Service, 87 (1994) IV, 237-242.

[10] Cf. the Letter of Cardinal Willebrands to ARCIC's Co-Chairs from July 13, 1985, in: Information Service 60 (1986/I-II) 23-f.

[11] J.H. Newman, "Apologia pro vita sua," Parts IV and V passim.

[12] Translation M. Bevenet, Cyprian "De lapsis" and "De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate," Oxford Early Christian Texts, Clarendon Press 1971, 64 f.

[13] Homily II: 22, translated in Bede the Venerable Homilies on the Gospels Book 2, p. 227, translated by Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1991 [cited in Sources chrétiennes, loc. cit. 287; 293.]


Letters Recalling '56 Hungarian Revolution
Between Budapest's Cardinal and Moscow's Patriarch

BUDAPEST, Hungary, MARCH 26, 2006 ( Here are the letters exchanged between Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Hungarian episcopal conference, and Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.

* * *

His Holiness Alexy II
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Feb. 7, 2006

Your Holiness,

In the name of the entire Catholic community of Hungary, I wish Your Holiness, and the whole Russian Orthodox Church, that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

This year Hungary celebrates the 50th anniversary of the revolution of 1956. Besides paying homage to the deceased, the Catholic Church has placed hope at the center of this commemoration; we have proclaimed this year to be a Year of Prayer for the spiritual renewal of our nation.

Christ's teaching on reconciliation takes on a significant role in this renewal, as well as the overcoming of despair and the respectful acknowledgment of our own people and the people of other nations. Man is God's creation. Languages, cultures, communities, the unique and special genius of nations, manifested throughout history in the process of overcoming life's hardships, is of great value for mankind as a whole and in the eyes of the Creator himself.

It was an unforgettable and uplifting moment for us all, when, on November 12, 1992, the leader of the Russian people expressed his remorse to the Hungarian people, for the events that took place in 1956.

Remembering this noble gesture, we are moved to express our great love and respect for the Russian people. We admire the magnificent works of Russian culture, art and literature, which are an eternal treasure for mankind. Some of these depict the depth and richness of the human soul in a unique way, unsurpassed on the world scale. We are greatly indebted to the spiritual and cultural richness of Russian Christianity and to the memory and example of those Russian Christians who gave witness to, suffered for and even gave their lives for their faith. At the same time, we express our grief and ask for God's mercy for all the pain and suffering that certain Hungarians may have caused Russians over the course of history.

Your Holiness' visit to Esztergom on March 5, 1994, occupies a special place in history of the Hungarian Church. At the spiritual center of the Hungarian Catholic Church we implored the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to accompany Your Holiness and to bless Your service, so that under Your leadership history's scars may be healed and thus the Russian Christianity may be renewed in its faith in Christ and in its following Him. This very same spiritual renewal and reconciliation through faith and solidarity is at the heart of the Hungarian Church. I ask for Your Holiness' prayers, so that our people may further grow in this renewed spirit of reconciliation, solidarity and cooperative work, so that they may all contribute to the integral realization of Europe's peoples through mutual respect, love, and through Christian and human virtues and values.

We ask the blessing of Lord of history and the supporting intercession of the Virgin Mother of God upon Your Holiness' apostolic work, the community of the Russian Orthodox Church and the entire Russian nation.

Cardinal Peter Erdo
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
Primate of Hungary
President of the Hungarian Conference of Catholic Bishops

* * *

The Most Reverend Peter Cardinal Erdo
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
Primate of Hungary
President of the Hungarian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Your Eminence,

Thank you very much for your letter of Feb. 7, 2006, expressing respect for the Russian people and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The anniversary of the tragic events of 1956 to be marked in Hungary next year is certainly an occasion for us to think again about the past, present and future of the people of Hungary and Russia.

A great deal of severe trials came to the lot of our nations in the 20th century. Among the victims of the violent persecution carried out by the godless regime were numerous clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church. Their lives were crowned with the feat of confession and martyrdom. Millions of people were killed in action during World War II.

The remains of Russian soldiers lie in rest in numerous cemeteries scattered on the face of the Hungarian land, while thousands of Hungarian soldiers found their last refuge in the Russian land.

In the postwar period, the history of our nations has seen many a bitter scene, and among them are the events of 1956. The remembrance of those events fills our hearts with pain and sincere regret.

The wounds inflicted by the historical upheaval of the past can be healed only by prayer, repentance and reconciliation. Lifting up a prayer for all those who suffered innocently, the Church of Christ calls those who live today to "a change of mind" and inner renewal. She calls them to build that "city to come" which, according to St. Paul, is sought by all Christians (cf. Hebrews 13:14). Therefore, I can appreciate your desire to make the coming year a year of a spiritual renewal of the Hungarian nation.

I hope that this renewal will also involve Orthodox Hungarians, the clergy and parishioners of the churches under the Hungarian Diocese of the Moscow Patriachate. It is gratifying for me to realize that you and our Hungarian diocese have established good and cordial relations. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to the Cathedral of the Holy Dormition in Petofi Square in Budapest, where the original spiritual and liturgical tradition of Hungarian Orthodoxy is carefully preserved and developed.

Your Eminence, relations between Russia and Hungary are on the rise at present. Evidence to it, among other things, is the return of the Sarospatak Library, which was taken out of Hungary by the Germans during World War II and found itself in Russia as a war trophy in postwar years. This event is an act of restoration of historical justice, and we are deeply satisfied with it.

In conclusion, allow me to wish you God's help in your service of the Church of Christ and to wish well-being and prosperity to your God-saved flock and to the entire Hungarian people.

With love in Christ,

Alexy II
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia


A Catholic-Evangelical Plea for Mutual Forgiveness
Joint Declaration From Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, JULY 11, 2005 ( Catholic and evangelical figures are finding a new area of common agreement: the need for mutual forgiveness for their disagreements.

That development marked the 2nd Fraternal Meeting called by Renewed Communion of Evangelicals and Catholics in the Spirit (CRECES) and held in Buenos Aires from July 2-4.

The meeting "was not an isolated event," both sides said in a Joint Declaration presented during the meeting. "Similar experiences are taking place and will continue to take place in greater measure in all the nations of the world."

Attending the meeting was Matteo Calisi, president of the International Fraternity of Covenant Charismatic Communities and Associations and founder and president of the Community of Jesus, a Catholic charismatic group that arose in Bari, Italy.

"I heartily encourage you to persevere in this path of praise and adoration, reconciliation and spiritual ecumenism which you already undertook last year," said Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, in a letter addressed to the participants of the CRECES meeting.

New commitment

The hopes of CRECES followers were reflected in the Joint Declaration, dated July 2, which was presented during the meeting.

"We are Catholics and evangelicals who have experienced the risen Christ, who through his Holy Spirit, which is grace, has renewed our lives spiritually," the declaration read.

"This spiritual renewal has led us to a new personal commitment to Jesus Christ," it added.

From the experience of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic and evangelical participants said they understand the Church as the "people of God, family of God."

The declaration continued: "All of us who are children of God, whether evangelicals or Catholics, are children of the same Father and, therefore, brothers. Christ wants only one Church, and he wants his Church to manifest in the world the unity and holiness that characterize God.

"Today, evangelicals and Catholics, renewed by the Holy Spirit, repent of our divisions and mutual offenses, and ask one another for forgiveness … we acknowledged that our greatest sin has been not to love one another as Christ taught us."

Group's roots

CRECES "was born from the yearning that the Holy Spirit put into the hearts of a group of Catholic and evangelical brothers who, without knowing it, prayed on their own that the Lord would inspire a common way toward the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer to the Father, the night he was betrayed: Father 'that they may all be one ... so that the world may know that thou hast sent me,'" the promoters told ZENIT.

The beginning of a common path began with Matteo Calisi's visit to Buenos Aires in July 2003. For some years, Calisi and evangelical pastor Jorge Mimitian had met in Italy, sharing the same desire for unity.

After a first meeting in Buenos Aires, four evangelical pastors and four Catholic laymen began to meet monthly to pray and discern the will of God for this endeavor of reconciliation and unity. The first meeting of CRECES was held last July 31.


Mary Document Advances Anglican-Catholic Unity

Interview With Co-secretary of Joint Commission

SEATTLE, Washington, MAY 19, 2005 (
The statement on Mary released by the Catholic-Anglican commission marks a step forward in unity between the two churches, according to the Roman Catholic co-secretary of the commission.

Father Donald Bolen, Roman Catholic co-secretary of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and assistant for the Western section of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, released the following answers to some common questions regarding the joint statement entitled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ."

Q: Who are the authors of this document?

Father Bolen: The text "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," also known as the Seattle Statement, is the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which is the official instrument of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

The dialogue, which was first called for by Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury in 1966, was established in 1970. The first phase of ARCIC's work (1970-1981) resulted in statements on the Eucharist, ministry and two statements on authority in the Church. ARCIC's second phase of work (1983 to the present) included statements on salvation and justification, the nature of the Church, morals, further work on authority in the Church, and now, on the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the doctrine and life of the Church. The commission that prepared the Mary document was constituted of 18 members. ARCIC began its work on Mary at its 1999 meeting, and completed the text in 2004.

The Anglican members are appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Anglican Communion Office, while the Roman Catholic members are appointed by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The co-chairs of ARCIC are Roman Catholic Bishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle, and Anglican Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth, who is also the primate of Australia. The document on Mary brings to completion the second phase of ARCIC's work. It is anticipated that a third phase of work for ARCIC will be initiated in due course.

Q: What authority does the text carry?

Father Bolen: "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ" is the work of ARCIC, and is published under the commission's authority with the permission of the Anglican Communion Office and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It is not an authoritative declaration by the Catholic Church or by the Anglican Communion, who will study and evaluate the document. The authorities who appointed the commission have allowed the statement to be published so that it may be reflected upon and discussed.

Q: Why was the place of Mary in the Church chosen as a topic to be studied?

Father Bolen: The Seattle Statement is the first international bilateral dialogue to take up the subject of the role of Mary in the Church. The opening paragraph of the document indicates that ARCIC was asked to prepare a study of Mary by Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders. While Mary has held an important place in the life and liturgy of Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike, the two Marian dogmas and Marian devotion within the Catholic Church have been seen as points which have separated the Anglican and Catholic Churches.

Q: What were Anglicans and Catholics able to say together about Mary prior to the present document?

Father Bolen: ARCIC had briefly addressed the subject of Mary once before, in the 1981 statement "Authority in the Church II." Paragraph 2 of the Seattle Statement outlines the significant degree of agreement about Mary in 1981, then proceeds to quote the earlier text in pointing to remaining differences which the present document sets out to address, focusing in particular on the Marian dogmas: "The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption raise a special problem for those Anglicans who do not consider that the precise definitions given by these dogmas are sufficiently supported by Scripture."

Q: How does "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ" set forth foundations from which to address the two Marian dogmas?

Father Bolen: Since its inception, ARCIC has sought to carry out a dialogue "founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions" ("Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury," 1966), thus attempting to "discover and develop our common inheritance of faith" (4). This attentiveness to our common foundations gives shape to the first two sections of the document.

The first major section of the document (6-30) traces the place of Mary in the Scriptures. Constituting almost one-third of the entire statement, this section could be used independently of the rest of the document, as a study of the place of Mary in Scripture (cf. 80). The text notes that the Scriptures 'bear normative witness to God's plan of salvation', so they are the natural starting point for ARCIC's reflections. The text concludes by noting that 'it is impossible to be faithful to Scripture without giving due attention to the person of Mary' (77).

The treatment of Mary in the Scriptures is summarized in paragraph 30: "The scriptural witness summons all believers in every generation to call Mary 'blessed'; this Jewish woman of humble status, this daughter of Israel living in hope of justice for the poor, whom God has graced and chosen to become the virgin mother of his Son through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. We are to bless her as the 'handmaid of the Lord' who gave her unqualified assent to the fulfillment of God's saving plan, as the mother who pondered all things in her heart, as the refugee seeking asylum in a foreign land, as the mother pierced by the innocent suffering of her own child, and as the woman to whom Jesus entrusted his friends. We are at one with her and the apostles, as they pray for the outpouring of the Spirit upon the nascent Church, the eschatological family of Christ. And we may even glimpse in her the final destiny of God's people to share in her son's victory over the powers of evil and death."

The second section of the text deals first (31-40) with Mary in the ancient common traditions, that is, in the early Church Councils which are authoritative for both Anglicans and Roman Catholics, and in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, theologians of the first centuries of Christianity. The text stresses the central importance of the early Church's understanding of Mary as "Theotókos" (the Mother of God the Word incarnate, the "God bearer"). The text then proceeds (41-46) to review "the growth of devotion to Mary in the medieval centuries, and the theological controversies associated with them," showing "how some excesses in late medieval devotion, and reactions against them by the reformers, contributed to the breach of communion between us" (77). Finally, the section concludes (47-51) by tracing subsequent developments within both Anglicanism and the Roman Catholic Church, and notes the importance of seeing Mary as inseparably linked with Christ and the Church.

Q: How does the Mary document approach the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (defined in 1854) and the Assumption of Mary (defined in 1950)? What agreement is ARCIC able to reach in this regard? What can we affirm together?

Father Bolen: The convergence which is set forward in the first two sections of the text provides foundations within which to approach the two dogmas. The third section begins by looking at Mary and her role in the history of salvation within the framework of "a theology of grace and hope." The text appeals to St. Paul's letter to the Romans (8:30), wherein he sets forward a pattern of grace and hope operative in the relationship between God and humanity: "those whom God predestined he also called; those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30).

This pattern is clearly seen in the life of Mary. She was "marked out from the beginning as the one chosen, called and graced by God through the Holy Spirit for the task that lay ahead of her" (54). In Mary's freely uttered fiat -- "let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) – we see "the fruit of her prior preparation, signified in Gabriel's affirmation of her as 'graced'" (55). In paragraph 59, the text links this affirmation to what is being professed in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: "In view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One (Luke 1:35), we can affirm together that Christ's redeeming work reached back in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings. This is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and can only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize in this what is affirmed by the dogma -- namely 'preserved from all stain of original sin' and 'from the first moment of her conception.'"

In turn, the document proposes that just as grace was operative at the beginning of Mary's life, so too does Scripture offer foundations for trusting that those who follow God's purposes faithfully will be drawn into God's presence. While "there is no direct testimony in Scripture concerning the end of Mary's life" (56), "when Christians from East and West through the generations have pondered God's work in Mary, they have discerned in faith ... that it is fitting that the Lord gathered her wholly to himself: in Christ, she is already a new creation..." (58). Again making a connection between this understanding of grace and hope operative in Mary's life and the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, the text notes: "we can affirm together the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture and that it can, indeed, only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize that this teaching about Mary is contained in the dogma" (58).

The Commission does not entirely resolve the differences between Anglicans and Catholics regarding the two dogmas, for the above conclusions pertain to the Marian content of the dogmas, not the authority by which they were defined. Nonetheless, ARCIC's drafters feel confident in proposing that if the arguments laid forth in the Mary document were accepted by the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church, this "would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context" (78; cf. 61-63).

Q: What does the text say about Marian devotion?

Father Bolen: The final major section of the document (64-75) addresses the place of Mary in the life of the Church, touching on questions pertaining to Marian devotion. The section begins with a strong affirmation: "We together agree that in understanding Mary as the fullest human example of the life of grace, we are called to reflect on the lessons of her life recorded in Scripture and to join with her as one indeed not dead, but truly alive in Christ" (65). The text stresses that Marian devotion and the invocation of Mary are not in any way to obscure or diminish the unique mediation of Christ.

It concludes: "Affirming together unambiguously Christ's unique mediation, which bears fruit in the life of the Church, we do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion dividing ... we believe that there is no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division on these matters."

The conclusion (76-80) pulls together what the dialogue commission is convinced that it has achieved in "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ." After reaffirming the agreements that were set forth in the 1981 document referred to above, the text concludes by expressing ARCIC's conviction that "the present statement significantly deepens and extends these agreements, setting them within a comprehensive study of doctrine and devotion associated with Mary" (76).