In Spe Contra Spem (Update)
Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and one of the Catholic Church’s leading theologians, yesterday addressed the Anglican bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference.
His talk gave a helpful overview of the history of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations since Vatican II, but also raised forthrightly the difficulties which have arisen, and gave a rather somber prognosis for the future of the dialogue.
Yet he concluded with this expression of hope:
Anyone who has ever seen the great and wonderful Anglican cathedrals and churches the world over, who has visited the old and famous Colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, who has attended marvellous Evensongs and heard the beauty and eloquence of Anglican prayers, who has read the fine scholarship of Anglican historians and theologians, who is attentive to the significant and long-standing contributions of Anglicans to the ecumenical movement, knows well that the Anglican tradition holds many treasures. These are, in the words of Lumen Gentium, among those gifts which, “belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity” (§ 8).
Our keen awareness of the greatness and remarkable depth of Christian culture of your tradition heightens our concern for you amidst current problems and crises, but also gives us confidence that with God’s help, you will find a way out of these difficulties, and that in a new and fresh manner we will be strengthened in our common pilgrimage toward the unity Jesus Christ wills for us and prayed for. I would reiterate what I wrote in my letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in December, 2004: In a spirit of ecumenical partnership and friendship, we are ready to support you in whatever ways are appropriate and requested.
In that vein, I would like to return to the Archbishop’s puzzling question what kind of Anglicanism I want. It occurs to me that at critical moments in the history of the Church of England and subsequently of the Anglican Communion, you have been able to retrieve the strength of the Church of the Fathers when that tradition was in jeopardy. The Caroline divines are an instance of that, and above all, I think of the Oxford Movement. Perhaps in our own day it would be possible too, to think of a new Oxford Movement, a retrieval of riches which lay within your own household. This would be a re-reception, a fresh recourse to the Apostolic Tradition in a new situation. It would not mean a renouncing of your deep attentiveness to human challenges and struggles, your desire for human dignity and justice, your concern with the active role of all women and men in the Church. Rather, it would bring these concerns and the questions that arise from them more directly within the framework shaped by the Gospel and ancient common tradition in which our dialogue is grounded.
We hope and pray that as you seek to walk as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies may bestow upon you the abundant riches of His grace, and guide you with the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence.
In today’s London Times there is a strong critique of the Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry Luke Orombi, Anglican Archbishop of Uganda. He also explains why many bishops from the Global South have chosen not to attend the Lambeth Conference which concludes on Sunday:
It is important that our decision not to attend this Lambeth Conference is not misunderstood as withdrawing from the Anglican Communion. On the contrary, our decision reflects the depth of our concern and the sober realisation that the present structures are not capable of addressing the crisis.