In his first homily after assuming the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI signaled his primary and unwavering commitment to Christian Unity, continuing the groundbreaking work of his predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II.
“Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.”
He has certainly lived up to that commitment.
Pope Benedict XVI has tirelessly promoted progress toward full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He has reached out to Christian communities in the lineage of the Protestant Reformation in the West.
Finally, he has offered his constant prayer and pastoral solicitude to Christians in the Anglican Communion as their own community has been beset with internal difficulties.
Reports in the European Press indicate that the Holy Father is in discussion with the Cardinals who have gathered in Rome on the eve of the consistory, when 23 new cardinals will be named, concerning the proper response to an ‘en masse’ overture from an entire group of disaffected Anglicans who have sought full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinals serve as advisors to the Pope and have historically been consulted on important decisions.
It was reported that Pope Benedict greeted the Cardinals and the Cardinal designates, led them in prayer and then turned the discussion over to Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Cardinal Kasper was to have briefed the assembled prelates concerning the breakthrough document recently approved by the joint Orthodox/Catholic theological commission.
This document may signal a breakthrough between these sister Churches which have not been in full communion since 1054 A.D.
Sources indicate that a formal request from a large group of Anglicans for full communion with the Catholic Church is also to be discussed. Bishops of the “Traditional Anglican Communion” (TAC) officially petitioned for what they called a “full, corporate, sacramental union” with the Roman Catholic Church.
The letter was personally delivered to the Holy See by their representative.
In 1980 the Holy See implemented the “Pastoral Provision” which made it possible for individual married Episcopal priests, after entering the Catholic Church, to be considered for ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
It also authorized the establishment of “Anglican Use” parishes. Since then, a growing number of former Episcopal priests have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood. Additionally, several Anglican use parishes have been established.
This latest overture from member groups within the “Traditional Anglican Communion” represents a significant movement in the growing interest among Anglican Christians to pursue full communion with the Catholic Church.
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