In what amounted to a plea to the Church of England’s Anglo-Catholics to resist the temptation to convert to Roman Catholicism over the issue of women bishops, he said: “God knows what the future holds for any of us . . .” He insisted, however, that it remained possible to be at once holy, Catholic and Anglican.
Dr Williams did not refer directly to the Pope’s response to requests from some Church of England bishops and traditional Anglicans around the world for a means of admission to the Catholic Church. He said that it was still possible “to lead lives of Catholic holiness even in the Communion of the See of Canterbury”.
The Catholic Church’s Holy See published the Apostolic Constitution or Papal decree this week, setting out the norms for the new Anglican Ordinariate, which will allow Anglo-Catholics to become Roman Catholics while still retaining their liturgies and other aspects of their Anglican heritage.
The new ordinariate is likely to be named after Cardinal John Henry Newman, the Catholic convert from Anglicanism who is to be beatified next year when the Pope visits Britain.
Dozens of members of the traditionalist group Forward in Faith could opt to move to the ordinariate if the Church of England General Synod proceeds with the consecration of women bishops without making some kind of statutory provision.
Dr Williams was preaching on All Saints’ Day at All Saints, Central London, at a service to mark the 150th anniversary of the church’s consecration. All Saints is a prominent centre of Catholic Anglican worship in Britain. In the sermon, published yesterday on his website, Dr Williams, whose own background is from the Church of England’s catholic wing, paid tribute to the Catholics and Anglicans who went to see the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux during their recent tour of Britain.
He added: “God knows what the future holds for any of us, for any of our ecclesiastical institutions, but we can at least begin with what we can be sure of — that God has graced us with the lives of saints, that God has been credible in this fellowship with these people.”
He added: “This church with its very particular place in the history of the Church of England is one small but significant facet of that great mystery and that great gift. And at times when the future seems more than usually chaotic and uncertain, it doesn’t hurt simply to give thanks.”
Dr Williams will go to Rome next week, when he will have an audience with the Pope and deliver a public address at an ecumenical conference at the Gregorian University.
Read it all here.