March 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 82

Anglican Bishops furious as Catholics stall on Communion

By Ruth Gledhill Religion Correspondent, The Times

    BY RUTH GLEDHILL, RELIGION CORRESPONDENT LONDON - March 22, 2001 - (The LondonTimes from - The Church of England condemned the Roman Catholic Church yesterday for holding out against shared Communion between the two churches. They criticise the Catholic bishops of the UK for “erroneous assumptions” about Anglicans when refusing to allow Anglicans to receive Catholic Communion and vice-versa.

    In a strongly worded document on the nature of the Eucharist, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr George Carey and Dr David Hope, accuse Britain’s Catholic bishops of applying a “hurtful and unhelpful” discipline on the issue.

    Anglican bishops are angry that, despite a century of ecumenical endeavour, their members are still not allowed to receive Communion in Catholic churches. They are also furious that the Catholic Church refuses to permit its members to receive Communion from Anglican priests.

    The dispute affects thousands of Christians, in particular those couples in mixed marriages, such as the Prime Minister, an Anglican, and his wife, Cherie, a Catholic.

    There was controversy in 1998 when it was disclosed that Tony Blair had been receiving Communion in his wife’s church. He was admonished by the late Cardinal Basil Hume and has since had to desist.

    Many Anglicans believe that the two churches’ teachings on the Eucharist are now so similar that full intercommunion should be allowed.

    In The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity, published yesterday at Church House in Westminster, headquarters of the Church of England, Anglican bishops make clear their anger with the Catholics over recent dismissive statements about Anglican teaching.

    Anglicans are baffled by the Catholics’ stance on shared Communion, they state. They find the ban on Catholics receiving Anglican Communion “an ecumenical, theological and pastoral affront”.

    Mixed marriages create a “double bond” of unity, they state. Mirroring the words of the marriage service on adultery, they say: “The unity in Christ between husband and wife that is created sacramentally or covenantally through marriage, building on baptism, should not be put asunder at the Eucharist.”

    While they insist they are working towards healing the breach between the two churches, they make clear that no compromise is possible on Anglican teaching.

    The Eucharist is a collective episcopal response to One Bread, One Body, the Catholic bishops’ document of 1998 which warned Catholics that they should not receive the sacraments of Reformation churches at all and said that non-Catholics could receive Catholic Communion only in time of “grave and pressing need”, such as danger of death.

    The offence this caused to Anglicans was intensified by last year’s Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which stated that the Church of England and other Protestant bodies were not “proper” churches.

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, welcomed the document. “It indicates the seriousness with which Anglicans and Catholics view the continuing dialogue between us,” he said.

    “It is a sign of our maturing friendship that with candour and honesty we are able to reflect on disagreements, knowing that they are part of the process which will eventually lead us to full communion.”

March 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 82
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