(Vatican Radio) The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrives in Rome on Saturday for a two day visit that will culminate on Monday in a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. On Sunday the Anglican leader will preach at Vespers at the church of St Gregory on the Caelian Hill, visit the two Anglican churches here in Rome and take part in a prayer service with the St Egidio community at St Bartholomew’s on the Tiber Island. During his packed programme, the Archbishop will also launch a new website for the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), showcasing ways in which members of the two communions are increasingly worshipping, working and witnessing side by side.
To find out more, Philippa Hitchen spoke with Canadian bishop Donald Bolen, co-chair of IARCCUM and Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of Unity, Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion office in London and co-secretary of IARCCUM…
Bolen: The website is meant to be a resource centre on-line for anyone interested in Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, from parishes looking for best practises, to researchers looking into the archives of Anglican-Catholic dialogue, to anyone following the news who might be interested in more information – for example about the visit of the ABC to Pope Francis.
Q: It’s a real scholars’ paradise of documents relating back to the beginning of the dialogue in the 1960s?
Yes, the coordinators of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations passed the guidelines that once material is over 30 years old it could be made available to the public, so there’s a wide range of archive materials up to the early 1980s, but there’s also newer material that will be of interest to many people…..
It’s also got a small photo galley that we hope can become much bigger – our hope is that people working on Anglican-Roman Catholic relations in different part so the world will send in resources, best practises, covenants, photographs, videos, which will give other people encouragement and ideas about how to foster relations in their area.
Q: IARCCUM itself is all about encouraging best practises, isn’t it?
Yes indeed, IARCCUM is really called to address the gap between what we could do and share together in terms of common witness, common mission, common prayer, common study, and what we actually do – which is very little. So the idea of best practises, which are all fully acceptable to our churches but which would give inspiration or ideas to others, is one of the purposes of the website….
In New Zealand the local Anglican and Catholic bishops have come up with joint liturgies for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Advent, that’s a practise which would be quite easy to emulate.
Q: There’s also the question of covenants you mentioned?
I was involved in the preparation of one of those covenants in southern Saskatchewan in western Canada, so that will be on the website and I think would be a good model for other diocese who would be interested in entering into a deeper relationship with their Anglican counterparts…..it identifies many of the things which are held in common and have been worked through in our dialogues, it identifies common concerns and then sets out some practical steps…. for instance from praying in each other’s cathedral together once a year, working together with First Nation people or some other justice issues, to joint formation on everything from altar servers, to sharing of ideas about stewardship and a wide range of ideas where it’s responsible for us to work together.
What can you do to spread this kind of work?
Barnett-Cowan: One of the strategies we have is to try and identify pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops in every country of the world who’ll be champions for the work of putting Anglican-Roman Catholic initiatives together – they’ll be the lead people in promoting this, but we hope that word about the website will spread, that the stories on our Communion news services and the work of Vatican Radio will all penetrate to parts of the world which don’t have perhaps have formally established dialogues.
Q: How does IARCCUM hope to move forward when there are still theological issues still causing obstacles?
The theological stumbling blocks are still there but that’s no reason for us to stop trying to do as much as we possibly can together. Often when you’re trying to solve a theological dilemma, it looms large as the only thing to think about, but the shared faith we have is far larger than the few things that divide us.
Q: You were meeting most recently with ARCIC in South Africa – what can you share from that encounter?
It was a very exciting venue to be in – we met in a leadership development centre where Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists are together working on leadership development with young south Africans, often in situations of poverty. Then we went to a number of projects, an HIV-AIDS cooperative, a women’s collective and places where the churches in Diakonia are equipping the people to be self-supporting – it’s really important for ARCIC to be aware that the Diakonia work of the church is, in many ways, more important than the theological conversations, since it actually changes lives of people directly.
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