Vatican Considering Union Request From Anglicans


VATICAN CITY, JULY 30, 2008 ( The Holy See is following with "serious attention" the request from the Traditional Anglican Communion for "full, corporate, sacramental union" with Rome.

This was affirmed by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, in a July 5 letter to the primate of the Anglican group, Archbishop John Hepworth.

The letter was written before the beginning of the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican leaders that is under way in England through Aug. 4. The Lambeth Conference is facing unprecedented controversy, and some bishops boycotted it altogether.

The conflict within the Communion has arisen over debate about the possibility of ordaining homosexual bishops and blessing homosexual marriages. A synod decision this summer to pave the way for the episcopal ordination of women has further alienated some Anglican leaders, many of whom were in disagreement with the Communion's decision to ordain women as priests.

According to Cardinal Levada's letter, "over the course of the past year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has studied the proposals which you presented on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion during your visit to the offices of this dicastery on Oct. 9, 2007."

"As the summer months approach, I wish to assure you the serious attention which the congregation gives to the prospect of corporate unity raised in that letter," the cardinal added.

The Traditional Anglican Communion states that its aim is "to recall Anglicanism to its heritage, to heal divisions caused by departures from the faith, and to build a vibrant church for the future based on powerful local leadership." By some counts, it has about 400,000 faithful. If the request for "corporate union" is deemed possible, it would imply the entrance of entire parish communities into communion with Rome.

Cardinal Levada acknowledged that "the situation within the Anglican Communion in general has become markedly more complex" since the Traditional Anglican Communion's request was originally made.

He affirmed that "as soon as the congregation is in position to respond more definitely concerning the proposals you have sent, we will inform you."

The Anglican primate received the letter via the apostolic nuncio in Australia last Friday.

He immediately made public a note expressing his gratitude for the Vatican message.

"It is a letter of warmth and encouragement," he said. "I have responded, expressing my gratitude on behalf of 'my brother bishops,' reaffirming our determination to achieve the unity for which Jesus prayed with such intensity at the Last Supper, no matter what the personal cost this might mean in our discipleship."

"This letter should encourage our entire Communion, and those friends who have been assisting us," Archbishop Hepworth added. "It should also spur us to renewed prayer for the Holy Father, for Cardinal Levada and his staff at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and for all our clergy and people as we move to ever closer communion in Christ with the Holy See."