Read it all here. Here's more:
The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, took the highly unusual step yesterday of protesting personally to the pope about his shock announcement last month of special arrangements for the mass conversion to Catholicism of disillusioned, traditionalist Anglicans.
A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace said after their meeting: "Obviously the archbishop expressed concern at the [decree announcing the special arrangements] and the way it happened. The pope listened in a friendly spirit."
A statement issued by the Vatican described their discussions as "cordial" and, without referring specifically to the pope's initiative, said they had "focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic church and the Anglican communion".
But the Church of England's version would indicate that this was the most strained encounter between a pontiff and primate since the two churches initiated direct, high-level contacts in the 1960s.
Their meeting was brief – only 20 minutes. And, in a break with custom, no arrangements were made for a restricted group of correspondents to witness the opening and closing phases of the talks.
A 10-line statement issued afterwards was not, as had been expected, a joint one. Vatican sources were keen to play down the significance of the archbishop's visit. They stressed he had been invited not by the pope but by a Vatican university. One described it as "a private meeting, only slightly more formal than a courtesy visit".
Nevertheless, the statement included an important endorsement of continued talks on unity. It said the primate and Pope Benedict had reiterated their "shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans". And it noted that the commission entrusted with preparing a third round of talks between the two churches was due to meet soon.
In an interview with Vatican Radio afterwards, Williams said: "I wanted to express some of the concerns about the way in which the announcement of the [decree] had been handled and received, because clearly many Anglicans, myself included, felt that it put us in an awkward position for a time – not the content so much as some of the messages that were given out. So I needed to share with the pope some of those concerns, and I think those were expressed and heard in a very friendly spirit."
He added that he did not believe there had been a "dawn raid" on the Anglican communion and implied that his concern had been with the Vatican's apparent lack of consultation.
Benedict gave his guest a present that will stir comment among Anglicans, and perhaps raise some hackles. The primate was handed what a Vatican source said was a "very beautiful bishop's cross". A sign of fraternal respect – or something more loaded? That and other questions remained unanswered at the end of a visit that a source close to the arrangements said was fixed by Lambeth Palace six weeks ago, at about the time the archbishop learnt of the pope's initiative.
The biggest unanswered question is how exactly Catholics and Anglicans propose to move towards unity after years of progressive mutual alienation. While the leadership of the Anglican church has embraced women's ordination and, in the US, gay priests, the Vatican under Benedict has become increasingly proud of its conservatism on these and other issues.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
From the Guardian: