From Fr. Gabriel Slater, A.A.
CUMENICAL conferences with Free Church theologians as well as with Anglican theologians may, it is hoped, take place in Britain next year, said Archbishop Heenan of Liverpool in Rome last week.
Relations between the Church and non-Catholics was the subject also of an interview given by the Archbishop to the CATHOLIC HERALD.
Asked what in his opinion would be the single most important result of the Vatican Council, Archbishop Heenan said : " As a result of the discussions between those who seek the development of the Church within and those who want to stress the external action of the Church. I hope that the aim of the Council as expressed by the Pope may be achieved, that is, that the Church may appear in a new light to non-Catholics" , Asked to explain how this was most likely to be achieved, Archbishop Heenan said: "As the First Vatican Council stressed 1he Pope's authority. so this one may explain the relationship of the bishops' authority to that of the Pope. In this way non-Catholics would have a more complete picture of papal infallibility and of the Church's authority".
Steps which had been taken in the ecumenical movement in this country over the past few years were earlier explained by the Archbishop in a Press conference organised by the Press Service of the Divine Word Fathers.
The reason why the ecumenical movement in Britain is still, in the main, conducted by theologians, said the Archbishop, "is by reason of the special difficulties of our religious history in England. Both Catholics and non-Catholics are agreed that progress must be slow in order that no false step shall be taken, which later would have to be retraced.
"There is no lack of charity, but charity needs to be guided by the virtue of prudence ... never since the sixteenth century have relations between Catholics and nonCatholics been so cordial."
Explaining why Britain seems to be so behind countries in Europe— such as Germany. France and Holland — Archbishop Heenan stated that the impetus to the movement in those countries had been quickened during the war years when Catholics and Protestants were placed in the common role of cornrades in the defence of religion. "Christians in countries which suffered occupation first learned to work together: helping each other, sheltering each other, and even plotting together to defy the attack of the new paganism," he said, and commented that "It is only since the reign of Pope John that the ecumenical movement in England has taken shape".
"It is not too much to say," he continued, "that the personality of the Pope altered the outlook of non-Catholic England to the Vatican. In the jargon of our day we could say that Pope John has given 'a new image' to the Catholic Church in the minds of Protestants."
On the visit of the former Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome, Archbishop Heenan said: "Dr. Fisher has told me that the attitude of Pope John inspired him to take the initiative of proposing a visit to the Vatican".
Britain's Committee for Christian Unity organised the Heythrop Conference to explain to the clergy the meaning of the ecumenical movement.
The next step was to arrange an ecumenical dialogue with the Church of England. "I invited Dr. Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to nominate six theologians who discussed with six Catholic theologians the subject of the Holy Eucharist." The conference took place at the Benedictine Priory at Worth in Sussex just before the Council began.