The Pope and the Archbishop

Today the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury are scheduled to have what is generally described as an informal meeting during which they will talk about subjects of common interest such as social justice. From both left and right of the religious spectrum have come little grunts of disapproval. Why is the pope talking to the archbishop when the Church of England has broken with the apostolic tradition regarding Orders and has an elastic attitude to same-sex relationships? Why is the archbishop talking to the pope when the Catholic Church refuses to move on the question of Orders and is so opposed to same-sex relationships? The list of differences goes on and on, but the media, naturally enough, home in on those that concern sex and gender. Some prefer not to acknowledge them at all, or comfort themselves that one side or the other will eventually give way and all will be as right as roses.

My own view is that we need to be honest about the very real differences between Anglicans and Catholics, but those differences do not preclude our working and praying together. Though some have scoffed at the idea of social justice being on today’s agenda, it strikes me as an area where both Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin can talk to one another with genuine understanding and experience. If anyone believes that the world today has no need of a Christian take on finance, poverty, politics, etc, etc, I think they have only to look around them to see what a mess we make of things when we ignore the religious perspective. Those who read the article by Rabbi Sacks in yesterday’s Spectator may well have nodded in agreement over his analysis, but it is not so much that we need religion to save us from barbarism as that religion, properly understood, makes barbarism an impossibility. The injustices which mean some starve while others have gastric bands fitted because they have eaten themselves into illness are surely another form of barbarism — just as much as withholding education, healthcare and even the right to life.

I think the pope and the archbishop will find much to talk about, and I pray that their meeting will prove fruitful for more than those who call themselves Anglican or Catholic. It may be ‘just’ a conversation between a man in white and a man in purple, but if we do our part, we can be sure the Holy Spirit will be there too; and the Spirit has a way of exceeding our expectations and turning our ideas upside down as being too little and too limiting.


13 thoughts on “The Pope and the Archbishop”

  1. I’ve read some of the quite vehement criticism of the meeting particularly by William Oddie in the Universe.

    But, I continue to pray and hope for unity, even if that seems a hopeless cause, surely Jesus’ call for unity trumps the hopeless #for God, nothing is impossible.

    I hope that these discussions lead to wider cooperation particularly on issues of social justice, poverty and the greed and selfishness that leads to so many having little, while the few have to much.

    So I commend everyone to welcome the meeting and to join in the prayers that it will bear fruit in many unexpected way.s

  2. Christians all though we proclaim ourselves, we are tribal creatures, and are pretty much hard-wired to root for our tribe whenever it is compared to, or set against, another. This is a shame; but it can be transcended, and I strongly suspect it will be in the meeting between Pope and ABC.

    Each is a deacon, priest and bishop of his own Christian communion; they are both men of prayer and (each in his way) men of the world. There will undoubtedly be a meeting of minds – perhaps of souls – of some kind. There almost cannot fail to be. Oddie and his ilk will be confounded, I sense.

  3. My heart saddens when I see folks focussing on their differences.
    My heart gladdens when I see folks focussing on the common need: food, medicine and a roof over everyone’s head.
    Peace and goodwill to all mankind: that’s what they say.
    Perhaps if that were focussed as the prime objective first, other matters would begin to fall into perspective.

    Kind regards


    • There ARE differences, and they have to be taken seriously because they express important truths; but we can pray and work and share much more than many suppose, because we all acknowledge the same Lord.

  4. Several months ago my husband and I were given a tour of a new Mormon temple before its dedication. The people we met with were interested in our understanding of their practices, though they knew nothing of Catholicism other than commonly held misconceptions. What they did know and spoke of was the charitable work undertaken by Catholics and Mormons in countries where no other faith community would venture.

    Perhaps the meeting between our Holy Father and the ABC will bear fruit in a cooperative effort to fight poverty and hunger. No doubt there will be other non-confrontational issues discussed. As to William Oddie’s articles, we have read them also. Are they contentious? Perhaps that depends on one’s perspective. Politics, schism, apostasy are no match for the Holy Spirit. Much can be accomplished in obedience to Christ’s teachings but not without prayer and faith.

    • Dr Oddie’s unpleasant tone does the Catholic Church no service. I often pray he would take as his model St Francis de Sales whose gentleness and courtesy won over many hearts and minds in Geneva.

      • I agree Dr. Oddie’s tone is abrasive, downright caustic, but he raises valid questions. In today’s post he admits he was “uncharitable” in his previous writing but does not back down on official doctrine. Hopefully we’ll see some productivity out of their meeting with regard to humanitarian issues.

  5. Pope Francis spoke Thursday of the need for Catholics to “watch their tongues”, not to resolve disputes with slander, personal attacks on those of other faith backgrounds. He spoke of the fact we are all on the same path to a common destination.

    I believe ALL Christians need to watch their tongues as it is far too easy to focus on the differences, important though they may be in relation to truth, placing a focus on the negative rather than positive usually ends badly. When our daughter had surgery in April we did not question the religious background of her blood donor, nor do the recipients at the Interfaith Food Bank inquire after our faith, their benefactors, at least I don’t believe so. In these very basic, human examples, there exists a truth we can work with.

    Dr. Oddie is offensive to me as a Catholic, at times, making broadcast statements concerning our understanding of the faith. So there is some commonality amongst us, Anglicans and Catholics both, the spittle flecked rant of a grumpy old man.

  6. We could argue amongst ourselves about angels dancing on the head of a pin, or matters that seem much more important to us where we are now….but surely our faith is that in the end all will be made whole in Christ. We are held in the moment (in successive moments, actually) while we live this life and our understandings are bound to be incomplete. In the fullness of time, when we are all one in Christ, we will love each other completely. In the meantime let’s try to be kind and courteous. Thank you for yet another thought-provoking post, Sr Catherine!

    • Thank you, Shellie. Kindness and courtesy show much more of God’s love than does the ‘ya, boo, and sucks’ kind of ‘discourse’ we are sometimes treated to by those who should know better.

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