Church leaders unite for a 'joint mission' in faith
The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to the Pope yesterday of a joint mission in an age where Christianity is seen as an "obstacle to human freedom and a scandal to human intellect".
Dr Rowan Williams said there were difficulties to be overcome before a reunion of the Catholic and Anglican churches could take place, but insisted they should work towards closer friendship.
Benedict became the first Pontiff to visit Lambeth Palace and Westminster Abbey, where the spiritual leaders prayed together at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor.
The warm words they shared marked a thaw in relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. There have been tensions in recent years over attitudes towards homosexuality and women in the priesthood.
The Vatican has said it views the Church of England as a mere "ecclesial community" whose holy orders are not valid.
Senior officials said there can be no union between churches divided since the Reformation while Anglicans continue moving towards women bishops and, in some provinces, ordain openly homosexual clergy.
Last year the Pope said disillusioned Anglicans could cross to Rome while keeping parts of their spiritual heritage, a move Dr Williams angrily dismissed at the time as "theologically eccentric".
But Benedict made a "fraternal" visit to the Archbishop yesterday and the pair exchanged gifts. Dr Williams paid tribute to his guest's "consistent and penetrating analysis of the state of European society". He said the task of bishops included "a readiness to respond to the various trends in our cultural environment that seek to present Christian faith as both an obstacle to human freedom and a scandal to human intellect".
Before an audience of senior Anglican and Catholic prelates, Dr Williams went on: "Meeting as we do as bishops of separated church communities, we must all feel that each of our own ministries is made less by the fact of our dividedness."
He said obstacles to reunion might not be overcome quickly, but spoke of "closer friendship" and "growing together".
The Pope talked of "remarkable progress" made between Anglicans and Catholics in the last 40 years. The Pope said Cardinal John Henry Newman, the Anglican convert to Rome whom he will beatify tomorrow, "can teach us the virtues that ecumenism demands". (© Daily Telegraph, London)