The Conversations and the Anglican Centre's role

 

The Anglican Centre in Rome is one of three key instruments in the modern dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The modern phase of this dialogue dates from the Second Vatican Council, and was initiated by the historic visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI on 23/24 March 1966.


The first of these three instruments is the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), a representative gathering of theologians, who for the last forty years have been producing agreed statements on topics that in the past have proved contentious and divisive. ARCIC I published its Final Report which included agreed statements on such topics as eucharist, ministry, and the exercise of authority in the Church. ARCIC II has completed its work on a range of other theological and moral topics, including its most recent document on the place of Mary in the theology and worship of the Church. ARCIC III, whose task will be to undertake a further phase of this important theological dialogue, is currently in the process of formation by Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams. After four hundred years of separation, forty years of convergence in theological thought is surely something to be celebrated.

The second instrument in this exciting modern ecumenical dialogue, the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), began its work in 2001. This is primarily a group of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, as leaders of the Church with responsibility of implementing shared practical initiatives in mission on the basis of the high degree of theological consensus that has been achieved by ARCIC over the last forty years. It has recently published an important document, Growing Together in Unity and Mission, which gathers together the various statements of agreement in the ARCIC documents and makes some practical suggestions about how Anglicans and Roman Catholics can live and minister together in more creative and fruitful ways.

The third instrument in promoting friendly relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion is the Anglican Centre in Rome. The Centre also celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2006. The Centre has three principal functions:

The Centre provides a permanent Anglican diplomatic presence in Rome with a brief to represent and interpret the thinking and developments of the Churches of the Anglican Communion to the Roman Catholic Church and to communicate a Roman Catholic viewpoint to the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The Director of the Centre is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s permanent representative to the Holy See. The Anglican Communion is the only Christian denomination to have such an institutional presence in Rome. Given the present stage of theological convergence and the growing need to take practical steps in mission together in the modern world, this Anglican ministry of presence in Rome is extremely important. The attendance of the Director of the Centre at important ceremonies and events of the Roman Catholic Church ensures that friendly relations are enhanced and sustained and that Anglicanism is visibly and creatively involved in the contemporary life of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Anglican Centre undertakes an important ministry of hospitality in Rome. By welcoming Roman Catholics socially and inviting their participation in Anglican worship, bonds of affection are developed. The Centre also provides an hospitable and welcoming point of reference for Anglicans who visit Rome and provides advice about the best way to access affordable accommodation.

Very importantly, the Centre is engaged in a significant ministry of education, by providing opportunities for Roman Catholics to learn about the Anglican Communion, its faith, liturgy and worship. The holdings of the Centre’s library, covering Anglican history, theology, liturgy, spirituality and missiology, make it possible for seminarians and theological students of the various universities in Rome to come and study Anglicanism with ease of access. In the context of the study of modern ecumenism this is a very important resource. This ministry of the Centre is much valued. Likewise, by creating opportunities for members of the Anglican Communion, both clerical and lay, to come and learn something of the way in which the Roman Catholic Church functions at its centre, and to engage in the serious study of the ecumenical agreements that have so far been reached, the Centre provides an important resource for all members of the Anglican Communion.

While ARCIC is constituted by professional theologians, and IARCCUM is primarily made up of bishops, the educational work of the Anglican Centre in Rome makes it possible for all Anglicans to participate in our ecumenical conversation with the Roman Catholic Church in an informed and creative way. This is a vital element in the promotion of Christian unity amongst Anglicans and Roman Catholics.