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Sunday, 9 October 2016

IARCCUM summit concludes and a new chapter in Anglican-Roman Catholic official relations begins

IARCCUM Bishops exchange the peace with the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury

The IARCCUM summit meeting of 36 bishops chosen as official representatives by their Churches from around the world for a momentous pilgrimage together to both Canterbury and Rome, has now drawn to an end. The summit marks the beginning of a new chapter of the official relations between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.

IARCCUM stands for the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. I have the great privilege of being the Anglican co-chairman of the commission; my Roman Catholic counterpart is Archbishop-designate of Regina, Canada, the Most Revd Donald Bolen.

Dr Anna Rowlands accompanies the bishops on their (theological) journey

It was a packed week with significant times for prayer and worship in such places as Canterbury Cathedral, St Peter's Basilica and St Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome. Much hard work was done in plenary and small group work and drafting sessions. There were very important meetings and encounters with the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Pietro Parolin (the Vatican's Secretary of State), Cardinal Kurt Koch (President of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting Christian Unity) and other officials. We received major theological input from Dr Anna Rowlands of Durham University on the Social Teaching of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. We made and heard presentations at a major academic symposium held in the Gregorian University.  And deep and committed friendships were formed.

Archbishop Don Bolen (rt) co-chairs IARCCUM session with Archbishop Welby

It is impossible to summarise the many fruitful outcomes of the summit. In the days and weeks ahead these will appear on our official IARCCUM website, which is linked to from this blog. Nevertheless here are some very brief highlights which point to the historic nature of this meeting:

We affirmed our common faith

  • We recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ through baptism. 
  • We have found significant agreement about Eucharistic doctrine, ministry and salvation. 
  • We have reached important convergence on authority, the Church as communion, moral principles, Mary and the saints, and episcopacy (including the role of the bishop as the symbol and promoter of unity). 
  • We share common traditions in liturgy, spirituality, and forms of consecrated and monastic life.
  • We have noted the complementarity of our social teaching and of our pastoral efforts to live the Gospel of mercy and love. 

IARCCUM bishops at Mass in St Peter's, Rome

We discovered deep dimensions to the "certain but imperfect communion" we share: 
  • "An ecumenism of the cross" uniting us as we bear together the plight of our people who face the challenges of our troubled world, as we stand with the poor, and reaching out together to reveal Christ’s presence among those at the margins of our world. 
  • “An ecumenism of humiliation” as we share the brokenness of our church communities, our failure to protect children and vulnerable people from abuse, women from violence, and indigenous people from exploitation.
  • "An ecumenism of hope" as we commit to working in the power of Holy Spirit, walking alongside each other in healing the world’s wounds, "dispelling the gloom of this world with the light of the Gospel, with the non-violent power of a love that conquers sin and overcomes death.” 
Anglican Co-Secretary Canon Dr John Gibaut (left) and RC Co-Secretary, Fr Tony Currer (right)

A commission from Pope and Archbishop 

At a service they jointly led at the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, while referring to obstacles to our full unity, Pope Frances and Archbishop Justin Welby nevertheless stated that despite these differences "we are undeterred". The Pope and Archbishop commissioned the IARCCUM bishops

  • to engage in an "ecumenical mission to those on the margins of society" 
  • to "work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ", 
  • to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon. 
  • to be "artisans of healing and reconciliation in the power of the Gospel", and 
  • to "go forth as pairs of pilgrims, returning to our home nations and regions to encourage common prayer, mission and witness".

IARCCUM bishops

So much more can be said, and our IARCCUM work in a new and vigorous phase now begins.

Dr Anna Rowlands with Bishop Alwin Samuel from Sialkot, Pakistan 

Below is the official communiqué from the IARCCUM summit.


Commnuniqué from IARCCUM Summit
"New steps on an ancient pilgrimage: Together from Canterbury to Rome"

30 September – 7 October 2016

IARCCUM 2016 has been an extraordinary, historic summit, rich in symbolism and significance for the Anglican Communion and Catholic Church.

It brought together 36 bishops from around the world for a week in Canterbury and Rome to celebrate the deepening relationship between the two traditions over the past 50 years – and to find practical ways to work together to demonstrate that unity to the world and address its social and pastoral issues.

The highlight was the mandating of the bishops by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at a service they jointly led at the church of San Gregorio al Celio. The service also saw the Pope and Archbishop exchange gifts as a sign of friendship – echoing the moment in 1966 when Pope Paul VI presented his papal ring to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey – a moment that ushered in a new era of dialogue.

The days in Rome also saw the formal presentation of a document detailing 20 years of work on reconciling the two traditions by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. And the bishops attended a symposium on current relations between the churches and the possibilities of future co-operation and dialogue.

The time in Canterbury was also rich in symbolism. The Suffragan Bishop in Europe, David Hamid, gave the homily at a Catholic Vigil Mass in the undercroft of the Cathedral. The following day, the Archbishop-elect of Regina, Donald Bolen, preached the sermon at the Sung Eucharist.

Bishop David – who co-chairs IARCCUM with Archbishop Don – said the summit had been an historic time in the history of our official dialogue, and deeply valuable.

“This has been an immensely rich occasion, full of significance for our two traditions. It has been a source of deep joy to all the bishops gathered from all over the world, who have shared their experiences, their challenges and their wisdom. It was a profound time of collegiality and communion, and they are inspired now to go out into the world and work together for unity and common mission.”

Archbishop Don said it had been an incredible time and he was excited about the future.

“The bishops engaged in everything in a way that was beautiful to see. Strong friendships have formed. In our discussions, we did not shy away from the difficulties we sometimes face. But the possibilities for our two traditions working together in a needy world are abundant and promising.”

One of the bishops, Archbishop Paul Nabil El Sayah from Beirut said the summit had been a joyful occasion that would yield practical results.

“The atmosphere has been very positive,” he said. “You can feel there is deep, sincere fellowship and a willingness to bring new things forward. I am completely sold on practical ecumenism. I see lots of potential. This is not about looking inwards but about coming to the outside world together. The more we come together, the more our message has credibility.”

Bishop Alwin Samuel, from Sialkot in Pakistan, has been working alongside Archbishop Sebastian Shaw from Lahore during the summit. Bishop Alwin said he was looking forward to collaborating more with the Catholics at home.

“We have been looking at how we can take concrete steps towards unity. One example is where we have existing projects of our own. We looked at how we could begin to work together on them. For example, in areas such as health, especially women’s health, where one church might provide the resources and the other would deliver them.”

Presenting the work of IARCCUM at a symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University

Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Welby with IARCCUM bishops at the Anglican Centre in Rome

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