Women priests stand in way of Church unity
by Viviane Hewitt in Rome THE ordination of women remains a "grave obstacle" to
reconciliation between Catholicism and the Church of England, Pope John Paul 11 told the Archbishop of Canterbury during their first meeting in Rome.
According to a brief statement issued after their talk on Monday, Dr Carey reiterated his view that doctrine could be developed to extend the priesthood to women. A vote allowing the ordination of women in the Church of England is expected at the General Synod in November.
Despite rumours that the Holy See was preparing a frosty reception for Dr Carey following his attack last week on the Vatican's position on population control, Dr Carey said that the meeting marked "a very promising start to my archiepiscopate". Population control was not discussed.
Dr Carey also said that he and John Paul II were "at a stage in the friendship where it is possible to say tough things about one another, to one another". To underline this note of optimism, Dr Carey said he had unofficially invited the Pope to visit him in Britain.
Catholic observers in Britain felt that the Church of England was trying to "rush into" the question of the ordination of women.
The Chairman of the National Conference of Priests. Fr Brian Sullivan, told the Catholic Herald that women's ordination was a "serious obstacle" to Christian unity. There is such a weight of 2000 years' tradition of an exclusively male priesthood. But you do have to balance that against a universal re-evaluation of women in society," he said.
Fr Sullivan that progress towards unity would be better served by finding common alternatives, such as women deacons. On the eve of Dr Carey's visit, Holy See spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said accusations that the Vatican had sought to obstruct some points scheduled for debate at the international Earth Summit next week were "untrue".
It had always been the Vatican's intention to guarantee the maximum commitment for the summit's success, he added.
On demographic issues, Navarro Valls said. the Holy See is concerned about "defending the poor from unjust impositions as if the poor. by their very existence, were the cause and not the victims of underdevelopment and ecological degradation."
It was considered significant that the Holy See had decided to respond to the allegations just before the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The official statement is also seen as a response to Dr Carey's own criticisms of the Catholic stance on birth control.
Dr Carey arrived in Italy on Saturday evening. The meeting with the Pope took place on Monday morning. following services on Sunday at Rome's All Saints' Anglican church and at St Paul-within-the-Walls on Sunday.
Although in his sermon at All Saints Dr Carey said that he and the Pope would meet "as brothers in Christ". he turned in his second sermon of the day to the ordination of women. "I am aware
that the ordination of women to the priesthood presents a problem to the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. It does so for many Anglicans as well. But I have to recognise that in parts of the Anglican Communion, the ordination of women has not destroyed the Church but, they believe, given it new life.
"There are other issues over authority and personal ethics, for example which are equally perplexing."
The Pope presented Dr Carey with a copy of the Codex Vaticanus I,atinus 39 New Testament with the inscription: "A testimony that Anglicans and Catholics share the word of God." Dr Carey's gifts to John Paul 11 were a Book of Hours and a chalice with the message: "A symbol of common prayer and hope for the gift of full communion which, as we know, is the Lord's will."
Dr Carey left Rome on Monday for Sicily, for talks with the Cardinal Archbishop of Palermo Salvatore Pappalardo hours after the moving requiem Mass for anti-Mafia Judge Giovanni Falcone, killed that afternoon by a Mafia bomb.
From Sicily, Dr Carey travelled to Venice and today he winds up his visit in Milan, where talks are scheduled with Archbishop Carlo Maria Martini.