But after meeting the Pope at the Vatican this weekend, Dr Rowan Williams insisted that relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches were back on track.
Dr Williams told the Pope of his embarrassment at the way the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced an Apostolic Constitution to set up Anglican Ordinariates for those who refuse to accept women priests and bishops. He had had only a few days’ notice, and made a late-night telephone call to the cardinal who heads the Council for Christian Unity, to find out what was going on.
Speaking to Vatican Radio yesterday, Dr Williams said: “Clearly many Anglicans, myself included, felt that it put us in an awkward position for a time – not the content [of the constitution] so much as some of the messages that were given out. I needed to share with the Pope some of those concerns. I think those were expressed and heard in a very friendly spirit.”
Dr Williams told the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, that the meeting with the Pope “went as well as I could have hoped”, and that dialogue under the Council for Christian Unity would continue as usual. This week, leaders of the Churches will discuss the third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. Dr Williams said that the Pope “was extremely enthusiastic about the next stage in ecumenical dialogue”.
Dr Williams denied that the Anglican Ordinariates were a departure from ecumenism. “It’s a pastoral measure for certain people, certain groups; it is not a new ecumenism.”
The Holy See described the meeting as cordial. The Pope gave the Archbishop a pectoral Cross, an indication that he recognises his episcopacy — in spite of a 19th-century papal bull under which Anglican orders are deemed “absolutely null and utterly void”.
Before the meeting, Dr Williams told the Financial Times that he had been left with a sore ego by the manner of the announcement. “I did have very short notice. I think that was a pity. It would have been good to discuss it a bit more. But I don’t think it’s a deadly blow, by any means. There are people who we knew were very likely to become Roman Catholics if the Church moved ahead with ordaining women as bishops here.”
Read it all here.