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Vital moment for Anglicans and Catholics
Such definite news as is currently available of the recently completed Anglican-Catholic discussions on the Christian ministry can only be construed as encouraging and potentially exciting.
Christian ministry has been studied in the broadest terms. This has involved consideration of biblical and other elements of the common inheritance of the two churches. Among the subjects studied were the role of the ordained ministry within the life of the Christian community. its priestly nature, ordination and apostolic succession. Throughout its discussions the Commission took seriously the obligations of the Christian ministry to thc whole world.
During the next year and at its meeting next summer the Cornmission intends to study the subject of the Church and Authority.
The Commission is convinced that its new statement, on the doctrine of ministry, if approved, and studied in connection with the Eucharistic Agreement, will have the deepest importance for the future of relations between the two churches. For in the past, disagreement on these two issues obscured the large area of common belief and made it impossible for Catholics to recognize Anglican orders.
The Commission believes that the two documents provide a wider context in which such problems may eventually be resolved.
The Commission's Agreed Statement onEucharistieDoctrine, drawn up at Windsor in 1971 has meanwhile continued to receive wide and careful study at all levels within the two churches, and also outside them. Authorities in both churches have welcomed the document and expressed a belief in its ecumenical significance. . •
I he document now completed was, it must be remembered, though unanimously subscribed to. only a high-level and expert proposed formula for future progress. It must now be submitted to the authorities of both churches. A request will be made for publication in due course so that as wide a general discussion as possible can take place.
The intervening period can be profitably spent by all thinking Christians as there is deep need for prayer and study on this vital question. The relationship between Rome and the sixty or so million Anglicans of the world is a very special one whose importance cannot be overestimated.
We need neither be heavily on the defensive over Pope Leo Xll's (non-infallible) bull (not, be it noted, an encyclical) about Anglican Orders, nor unduly euphoric about the need to examine, and re-examine, magisterial pronouncements by the Church in the light of historical conditionings. But the latter consideration. emerging from the Holy See's most recent important declaration, "Mysterium Ecelesitte", may well play a key part in the discussions that will now follow.
Those unwilling to believe or remember that successive Popes contradicted one another during the century of controversy over the (to them) vital matter of efficacious grace may fear the worst in the present situation. But others, with a closer grip of Church history. and faith in the inscrutable ways of providence, will be less apprehensive, This is a moment when the Anglicans and Catholics may well say to one another with renewed hope and fresh significance: "Oremus pro invicem."