Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Blessed John XXIII and the Archbishop of Canterbury
As appropriate in these days leading up to the canonization of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, the National Catholic Register publishes this article by Father Dwight Longenecker about the first stages of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Church of England:
On Dec. 2, 1960, the Swiss Guards looked up to see an Anglican archbishop clad in a purple cassock and Canterbury cap striding up the steps to the Vatican’s apostolic palace. It was the first time an archbishop of Canterbury had visited the Vatican for 600 years.
A former school headmaster, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher had been the head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion since 1945. On the election of Pope John XXIII in 1958, a new spirit of ecumenism was in the air. After Pope John established a new Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity in June of that year, the rambunctious Archbishop Fisher decided to call on the pope. His unexpected visit set the Vatican diplomatic machine into a tizzy, but Pope John XXIII welcomed him, and together they broke centuries of deadlock between the two Churches.
Ever since King Henry VIII’s break with Rome, the tension between Catholics and Anglicans had grown into a bitter, centuries-long feud. Nevertheless, by the 18th and 19th centuries, the relationship began to thaw.
In the 18th century, a remarkable correspondence developed between Archbishop of Canterbury William Wake and French Catholic bishops, and in the 19th century, Blessed John Henry Newman’s conversion brought scores of Anglicans into the Catholic Church, rekindling the dream of unity. Hoping for a positive response, an Anglican layman, Lord Halifax, pressured for Rome to decide on the validity of Anglican orders. The hope was dashed in 1896, when Pope Leo XIII issued his "motu proprio" Apostolicae Curae (On the Nullity of Anglican Orders), declaring Anglican orders to be "utterly null and void."
Read the rest here. One of the interesting results of this meeting was that while Blessed John XXIII accepted in a way the Anglican idea of the via media--as being something other than Protestantism--the Anglican Archbishop could not accept the notion of unity through restoration and obedience:
During the meeting, Pope John made some observations on the Gospel. In his meditations, he thought of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end, the gentle pope asked the archbishop when the Anglicans would come back, and Archbishop Fisher made his now-famous reply — that it was impossible to go back; instead, "we must go forward together."
The wisdom of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with the Anglican Ordinariate is that he created a new, better way of going "forward together" in unity and holiness.