On Thursday in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, England. The archbishop's visit to Rome is taking place 40 years after the meeting between Pope Paul VI and the then-archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey.
In his address, the Holy Father, speaking English, recalled both that anniversary and the long history of relations between the See of Rome and the See of Canterbury, which began more than 1400 years ago. He also thanked Archbishop Williams and other representatives of the Anglican Communion for their presence at the funeral of John Paul II and at the inauguration of his own pontificate.
"There is much in our relations over the past forty years for which we must give thanks," said the Holy Father. "The work of the theological dialogue commission; the friendship and good relations which exist in many places between Anglicans and Catholics [that] have helped to create a new context in which our shared witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been nourished and advanced; the visits of archbishops of Canterbury to the Holy See;" and the "constructive meeting of Anglican and Catholic bishops in Mississauga, Canada, in May 2000, when it was agreed to form a joint commission of bishops to discern appropriate ways to express in ecclesial life the progress which has already been made."
"In the present context, however," he went on, "and especially in the secularized Western world, there are many negative influences and pressures which affect Christians and Christian communities. Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.
"We believe," he added, "that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations. It is to be hoped that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue to be taken seriously."
"The world needs our witness and the strength which comes from an undivided proclamation of the Gospel," the Holy Father concluded. "Precisely for this reason, and even amidst present difficulties, it is important that we continue our theological dialogue. I hope that your visit will assist in finding constructive ways forward in the current circumstances."