Pope, Anglican leader agree need for closer ties
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Benedict agreed the need for closer ties between their churches on Saturday, in their first meeting since last month's surprise Vatican offer to disaffected Anglicans.
Archbishop Rowan Williams had a brief private audience with the pontiff and their discussions reiterated "the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans," a Vatican statement said.
Cordial discussions also "focussed on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion," it added.
Some Anglicans have criticised the Pope's overture to alienated members of the Church of England, allowing them to join the Catholic church while maintaining many of their own traditions.
They see the offer as a bid to woo away Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women priests and bishops, something not permitted in the Catholic church.
Several member churches of the 77-million strong Anglican Communion have women bishops -- the Episcopal Church in the United States has a female head -- and the Church of England is preparing to ordain them.
Both sides have tried to present the offer as a normal step, but the Vatican's top ecumenical official, Cardinal Walter Kasper, last week revealed Williams had called him in the middle of the night for an explanation when it was announced.
There was no immediate comment from the Anglican side on William's brief private audience with the pontiff, which was billed as a courtesy call by church officials.
During his three-day visit to Rome to attend a conference on relations between Christian churches, Williams has struck a conciliatory tone.
He said in a speech on Thursday that decades of Catholic-Anglican dialogue has achieved wide consensus on core Christian teachings and left only lesser issues of church organisation and authority open.
The Vatican statement said the Pope and the Archbishop had discussed the need to promote collaboration to tackle the "challenges facing all Christian communities" at the start of the 21st century.
Benedict's offer to discontented Anglicans, contained in a document know as a "Apostolic Constitution," establishes a standard benchmark of rules and obligations for conversion, and allows the appointment of leaders to oversee communities of former Anglicans.
It marked perhaps the boldest institutional step by the Vatican to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the fold since Henry VIII split with Rome and appointed himself head of the new Church of England in 1534.
The Vatican said it was a response to many requests submitted by Anglican clergy and faithful in many parts of the world. The most prominent recent Anglican convert to Catholicism was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who joined after leaving office in 2007.
(Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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