One hopes that the Pope enjoyed his recent visit to All Saints in the Via del Babuino, a rather fine Anglican Church in the heart of Rome, the work of the famous architect G E Street.
In the course of his visit, he preached a sermon in
It centred on the blessing of an icon, using language that is
more redolent of the Christian East than the Christian West. One wonders
who writes these things.
More interesting were the remarks made in a question and answer session, which are reported by Vatican Radio. When wishing to emphasise what Anglicans and Catholics share, the Pope had this to say:
“We have a common tradition of the saints … Never, never in the two
Churches, have the two traditions renounced the saints: Christians who
lived the Christian witness until that point. This is important.
“There is another thing that has kept up a strong connection between
our religious traditions: [male and female] monks, monasteries. And
monks, both Catholic and Anglican, are a great spiritual strength of our
This is interesting from a historical perspective and suggests that
the Pope should perhaps take a close look at the history of England or
the Thirty-Nine Articles.
Anglicanism was born out of a movement that saw the destruction of
all of England’s religious houses, many of whose mute ruins stand as a
witness to this catastrophe today.
Moreover the Thirty-Nine Articles
specifically forbid the cult of the saints, and our Tudor forebears made
a point of destroying all the shrines of England bar one (that of Saint
Edward the Confessor, who was spared as he was a king.)
“The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and
Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of
Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty
of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”
If ecumenism is to progress, it has to do so on a sound historical
basis. There is no other way.
It is true, as the Pope avers, that there
are Anglican monks and nuns, but these religious foundations date to the
nineteenth century at the earliest, and are fruits of the Oxford
For four hundred years there was no religious life lived under
vows in community in the Church of England. Many (though not I) would
see the influence of Anglican religious life as marginal in the Church
Again, Anglican devotion to the saints of our own times is
certainly present and to be encouraged; but whether someone like Saint
Therese of Lisieux has much of an impact on Anglican thinking these
days, I am not sure.
Too much of our ecumenical dialogue has been based on a mixture of
wishful thinking and not looking too closely at the historical faith of
various Christian bodies.
This does no one any favours, and it needs to