February 19, 2007

Catholics Surpass Anglicans In UK; Anglicans To Reunite With Catholics Under Pope?

Henry VIII is rolling in his grave--along with centuries of English Protestants of every stripe.

Just a few days ago The Times reported that the number of Roman Catholics in the UK would surpass the number of Anglicans for the first time since the Reformation, primarily due to the influx of Catholic immigrants.

Now comes this shocker--a plan to reunite Anglicans with Roman Catholics by recognizing the primacy of the Pope:
Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt.

The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches.

In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the Pope.

. . .

In one significant passage the report notes: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.” Anglicans rejected the Bishop of Rome as universal primate in the 16th century. Today, however, some Anglicans are beginning to see the potential value of a ministry of universal primacy, which would be exercised by the Bishop of Rome, as a sign and focus of unity within a reunited Church.

In another paragraph the report goes even further: “We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.”

Other recommendations include inviting lay and ordained members of both denominations to attend each other’s synodical and collegial gatherings and conferences. Anglican bishops could be invited to accompany Catholic ones on visits to Rome.

The report adds that special “protocols” should also be drawn up to handle the movement of clergy from one Church to the other. Other proposals include common teaching resources for children in Sunday schools and attendance at each other’s services, pilgrimages and processions.

Anglicans are also urged to begin praying for the Pope during the intercessionary prayers in church services, and Catholics are asked also to pray publicly for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In today’s Anglican Church, it is unlikely that a majority of parishioners would wish to heal the centuries-old rift and return to Rome.

However, the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the present dispute dividing his Church gives an indication of how priorities could be changing in light of the gospel imperative towards church unity.

Dr Rowan Williams, who as Primate of the Church of England is its “focus for unity”, has in the past supported a liberal interpretation of Scripture on the gay issue. But he has made it clear that church unity must come before provincial autonomy. A logical extension of that, once this crisis is overcome either by agreement or schism, would be to seek reunion with the Church of England's own mother Church.
Certainly some die-hard protestants in the Anglican establishment will bristle at this attempt at ecclesiastical rapprochement and reassertion of Papal primacy. As it is just a proposal at this point it will be interesting to see whether or not this proposal goes anywhere or remains permanently mired in the talking stages.

And what will Queen Elizabeth II think of this, as it essentially eliminates the monarch as the head of the Church of England, returning ultimate authority to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI?

And do Anglicans automatically become Catholics? More will be revealed as the proposal becomes public.


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