Towards the end of his visit to All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome on Sunday 26 February he was asked a series of questions from people attending.
Below is a paraphrase from Italian to give a flavour of his warm hearted and good humoured replies. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT A DIRECT LITERAL TRANSLATION.
ADDITIONAL NOTE – A full album of pictures of the visit is available to view and share via https://goo.gl/photos/a8Y7JCmYtuJtfVKn6
Question: During our liturgies, many people come into our Church and they wonder why it "sounds like a Catholic Church! ". Many Catholics have heard of King Henry VIII, but are unaware of the Ecumenical Anglican traditions and progress of this half-century. What would you tell them about the relationship between Catholics and Anglicans today?
It's true, the relationship between Catholics and Anglicans today is good. It is what we want as brothers. But it is true that in history there are ugly things everywhere and tearing a piece from history (i.e. King Henry VIII) and taking it as if it were an icon of relations is not right. A historical fact should be read in the hermeneutic of that moment, not with another interpretation. And relations now are good since the visit of the primate Michael Ramsey. But we also have a common tradition of Saints as your parish priest emphasized earlier. The two churches, the two traditions, have never ever disowned the Saints, Christians who lived as Christian witnesses. And that's important. But there have been reports of brotherhood in bad times, in bad times, where he (the King) was much into political power, economic, religious, where there was that rule cuius regio eius religio, yet even in those times there were some reports ...
In Argentina I met an old Jesuit senior. I was young, he was elderly. Father Furlong Cardiff, had been born in the city of Rosario, of an English family and when he was a kid he was an altar boy - He's Catholic from an English Catholic family — he was an altar boy in Rosario in Queen Victoria's funeral in the Church of England, as it was reported even then. And you could say the reports of relations between Catholics and Anglicans may not fit historically but it's an image that will help us to think: two steps forward, half step back, two steps forward, half step back ... That’s a very human way which we must continue. Another thing that has maintained a strong connection between our religious traditions is that we have monks and monasteries and the monks, both Catholics, are Anglicans, are a great spiritual force in our traditions. And the news about that relationship is that it has improved and is improving. I like it, this is good. "But aren't we making all things equal?". We walk together, we go together. For now it's fine. It is a daily concern.
Question: Your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI warned about the risk, in ecumenical dialogue, if we give priority to the cooperation of social action rather than following the way of faith seeking fussy theological agreement. Should we not prefer the opposite, namely "walking and working" together to attain the goal of Christian Unity?
I don't know the context in which Pope Benedict has said this so it's a little hard for me and makes it difficult to reply. What can I say? There are things we could say in an interview with the theologians ... But both things are important. It is not certain which one takes precedence. There is the famous joke of the Patriarch Athenagoras, that is true. I asked the question to Patriarch Bartholomew and said: "this is true". When they told the blessed Pope Paul VI he said; "we make unity between us and all theologians by putting them on an island just for them!". It was a joke. But it is true, is historically true. But that is the crux of this because I think that what Pope Benedict said is true - You have to look for theological dialogue to search for the roots, on the sacraments, on many things we still disagree. But this can't be done in the lab: you should keep walking on. We are on a journey and on the way we do these discussions. That is what theologians do. But in the meantime we're helping ourselves, with each other in our need, in our lives, even spiritually, we help each other. For example in twinning (the twinning agreement just signed between All Saints and the local Roman Catholic church) there was mention of studying sacred writings together and we help each other in the service of charity, in the service of the poor, in hospitals, in the wars ... It's so important, this is so important. You can't keep on doing ecumenical dialogue alone. Ecumenical dialogue is part of the way; ecumenical dialogue is part of a journey. I don't think I am being unfair to the mind of Pope Benedict, even about the importance of ecumenical dialogue.
Question: All Saints Church began with a group of faithful British, but is now an international congregation with people from different countries. In some of those regions of Africa, Asia or the Pacific, ecumenical relations between the churches are better and more creative than here in Europe. What can we learn from the example of the churches in the southern hemisphere?
Thank you. It is true. The young churches have a different vitality because they are young. And looking for a way to express himself differently. For example, a liturgy in Rome, London or Paris, is not the same as a liturgy in your country (referring to the questionner) where the Catholic Liturgy is expressed with a feast, with dancing and so many different forms that those young churches can express. The young churches have more creativity. Even at the beginning here in Europe it was the same, when you read as in the Didache, for example. In the Eucharist, the encounter between Christians, there was a great creativity. Then the Church stopped growing and growing well. She grew up to an adult age. But the young churches have more vitality and also have the need to collaborate, but a strong need. For example I'm studying the possibility of a trip to South Sudan, because the suggestion came from the bishops, Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians - the three together. They ask: "Please come to South Sudan, and not only for a day. And come with Justin Welby", the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The young church, came up with this creative idea. And we're wondering if it can be done or if the situation is too bad there. But we have to do what we can because all three of us together want peace and we can work together for peace.
There is a very interesting anecdote; When the blessed Paul made the beatification of the martyrs of Uganda – a young church! - among the martyrs were catechists, some were Catholics and Anglicans and others. All have been martyred for the same Heavenly King, out of hatred for the faith and because they did not want to let the King down. Paul VI was embarrassed because he said: "I have to beatify two martyrs, from both denominations". At that time the Catholic Church was not able to do that. They just beatified the second ... But the young church celebrates both of them together, even Pope Paul VI in his homily, in speech, in the mass beatification ceremony wanted to appoint catechists. Anglican and Catholic Catechists were martyrs of the faith just the same. This shows a young church. The young churches have courage because they are young like all young people have more courage than those of us who are not so young!
In my experience. I was a close friend of Anglicans in Buenos Aires, because the parish adjoined the Anglican cathedral. I was a close friend of Bishop Gregory Venables, a close friend. But there is another experience. In the North of Argentina there are Anglican missions with the aborigines and Catholic missions with the aborigines and the Anglican bishop and Catholic Bishop with them work together and teach. And when people can't go to the celebration on Sunday, Catholics go to the Anglicans, and Anglicans go to the Catholics because they don't want to spend a Sunday without a celebration and they do want to work together.
The Congregation here are committed to sharing in faith and charitable works. Both bishops are friends and the two communities have been friends. I think this is a wealth that our young churches can bring to Europe and to the churches that have a great tradition. It has the strength of something which is very, very focussed and well thought out. It's true that ecumenism is easier in the young churches but I think - and return to the second question –perhaps in a more mature, more aged Church with stronger theological research our ecumenism is in that research, in the study of history, theology, liturgy as the Church in Europe.
I think both the churches from Europe would do well to send some seminarians for pastoral experiences in young churches, you learn so much. We know that the Catholics already come from the young churches, studying in Rome. But send them to see, to learn from the young churches – that would be a great wealth as the questionner suggests. Ecumenism doesn't mean being more superficial: no, it's not superficial. They do not negotiate their faith and identity. The aborigine tells in northern Argentina: "I am an Anglican" – "but there is no Bishop there is the Shepherd, there is the Reverend ..." – "I want to praise God on Sundays and I go to the Catholic cathedral", and vice versa. Are these the riches of the young churches?