29th May 1982. Moves towards Ecumenism.
Today in 1982 Archbishop Runcie, and Pope John-Paul II, on a pastoral visit, prayed together at the tomb of St Thomas a Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral.
He was the first Pontiff to visit Canterbury, which resulted in Runcie being subjected, before the visit, whilst preaching in Liverpool, to a vitriolic attack from evangelicalists, who called him a ‘liar and traitor.’
Since the 16thc Reformation, when Catholics were the enemy within, and the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy, in the 19thc, Anglicans and Catholics have maintained a distance of suspicion.
Archbishop Fisher, on an unofficial visit to Rome in 1960, had made some tentative soundings at reconciliation, but it was after the 1962 Vatican II, which seemed to promise a new dawn. This despite the Anglican Church still being regarded as no more than a mere ‘ecclesial community’.
In 1966, Archbishop Ramsey met Pope Paul VI, in Rome, in another attempt to initiate a new ecumenical era, remove conflict and restore unity,
However 1987 saw the first women deacons ordained in the Church of England, and Synod, a year later, agreed in principle, to women priests; the first being ordained in 1992.(1)
It resulted in many Anglican male clergy ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Rome, where many were accepted into the Catholic Church, even those married.
Their traditions of patrimony, it was said, would be respected to include the ‘sacral language’ developed in earlier centuries, Morning and Evening Prayer, The Litany, Coverdale Psalter and the rich tradition of Anglican hymns. Mass was a different matter.
In September 2010, relations were improved when Pope Benedict XVI, was received by Parliament in a State Visit.
However the the 2013 legalization of ‘same-sex’ marriage, and the ordination of women bishops into the Church of England in 2015, would not have helped the cause of ecumenism.
No longer could religious conscience be cited as an excuse for the unequal treatment of people, as in one move, the supremacy of the law over-ruled scriptural and religious affiliation.(2)
(1) Thus was confounded Dr Johnson who likened: ‘a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.’
(2) This was seen in a test-case’ in Northern Ireland in May 2015, when a cakemaker was fined for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex couple.