THERE was much excitement at Canterbury last Saturday when it was learnt that a Common Declaration by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury would be made public before the Pope final!) left the Cathedral precincts.
It was announced that a number of senior Church of England clergy would he present at a press conference to answer questions about the Declaration.
The press conference was chaired by Canon Christopher Hill, on behalf of the Anglicans, as well as Cardinal Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, Archbishop Ramon Torrella, Vice-president of the same Secretariat and Mgr Richard Stewart, the Secretariat's "liaison officer" on Anglican matters. It looked as if a golden opportunity was being offered for questions as to the deeper ecumenical significance of the afternoon's events.
No senior Anglican clergy, however, turned up and the press conference, which started late, was adjourned so that all present could go outside and wave goodbye to the Pope.
There was just time for the Declaration to be read out, even though everyone already had a copy. But the press conference, having once been adjourned, did not reassemble. It had only lasted five minutes.
One journalist turned to another and said: "Have they given up?" To this the answer was: "If they haven't, the press has." Whether by accident or design, no questions were either asked or answered about the interpretation of the Common Declaration or on what ecumenical discussion, if any, had taken place between the Pope and the Archbishop. Their Common Declaration had, in any case, been prepared long beforehand.
The much vaunted press conference was thus a disappointing non-event and something of an anti-climax after the other stirring events of the day.