Texts in full
Kasper: no side won in ex-Anglican ordinations20 January 2011, 2:00
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the former head of the Vatican's ecumenism body, gave the following speech at a dinner with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in Church House, London, on 14 January. The following day three former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:
Your Grace, you mentioned with kind words my work in the last 11 years in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I cannot be grateful enough for what you said. Though I am also profoundly ashamed. In my own German language we have the slogan: 'Who I am greets sadly the person I should be.'
But what you, with British understatement, didn't say, are all the good and very enriching experiences I had the opportunity to have during all these years, not least the ones I had in the numerous and always good encounters with you, your dear spouse, your staff, all the representatives of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion. So from my side too, I have to express my profound gratitude and my high esteem for you and your collaborators, who always were so co-operative with the officials of the Pontifical Council, here represented by Mgr Mark Langham and Mgr Oliver Lahl.
I must confess that when I started my work 11 years ago I had only very vague ideas on what Anglicanism was all about. From my early studies I knew John Henry Newman, one of the great figures of Anglo-Saxon culture and theology. From my first visit to Great Britain in the 1960s, when I travelled in an old Volkswagen from Dover to Scotland with my sister, who was really cathedral-sick, and I had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road - I knew the kindness, the gentlemanlike behaviour of people here in this country and its great cultural richness; I admired the old cathedrals, the venerable university cities of Oxford and Cambridge and particularly the marvellous Evensongs in the cathedrals. At this time I knew very little English, so when I attended a lecture by one of the great old men of the Church of England, Henry Chadwick, I was furious because I didn't understand all the wonderful jokes he told his audience.
I cannot count the encounters I have had with Anglicans since: the memorable Mississauga Meeting near Toronto in 2001, the kind meeting in Lambeth Palace a little later, when Your Grace took office in 2003 as successor of St Augustine, the conferences in St. Albans, the Lambeth Conference in 2008 with Anglican bishops from around the globe, the meetings in Rome, Naples and elsewhere. Only some months ago I could, unfortunately only on the television screen, follow the visit of the Holy Father in this country and how he was well received by Her Majesty the Queen, by yourself, by the Government and especially by the people, both Anglicans and Catholics.
I think we were able to overcome many misunderstandings or even the lack of mutual knowledge and understanding, and achieve many positive results. It was a very 'Growing Together in Unity and Mission' as we formulated it in an Agreed Statement in 2007.
We formulated in this way, because we know that the unity of the Church is not an end in itself, but helps to fulfil the mission of the Church to spread the Gospel and its values in a world which needs it so much in order to come to more justice, freedom and peace, especially in our old European continent with its rich cultural inheritance but also with its confusing spiritual disorientation needs new spiritual guidance and new evangelisation. We can only do it together and we should try to do it as much we can. It's our common responsibility to fulfil the last will of our Lord: 'That all may be one, so that the world may believe.'
These words of our Lord are the very basis, the orientation and the motivation for the ecumenical endeavour and the ecumenical movement on which we embarked and which is an irreversible way towards the future.
So I always was eager to understand Anglicanism better. Once you gave me one of your interesting books on 'Anglican identities'. I said: 'Oh good, I have long wanted to understand the Anglican identity.' You answered: 'Look, it's about Anglican identities.'
I know that here I touch on a problem, a problem which is not only yours but ours, because when one member suffers, the whole body of Christ suffers. I know well that tomorrow is not an easy day for you. It is not a day of victory for one side; it should be for both a day of penance, that despite all goodwill on both sides so far, we were not able to fulfil the will of our Lord as we should have.
But I want to assure you, the Holy Father, my successor in the Pontifical Council, and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole are willing and and have decided to continue the way of sincere dialogue we started after the Second Vatican Council now more than almost fifty years ago.
It is not necessary to count all the problems we face in this regard. We all know them. I think there are two fundamental problems:
First: What does it mean to confess the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church and therefore what does it mean to realise this catholicity in its non-confessional but all-embracing original meaning? What does it mean to be the one Church of Christ in the many Churches? How to realise unity, which is not at all identical to uniformity, a unity without fusion or absorption (John Paul II), so that we become more and more one Church and nevertheless many Churches remain (J. Ratzinger)? We know that this touches the problem of primacy, which for both is not an easy one, because it - besides all the theological questions which arise - is so deeply rooted in consciousness of this country and its history and in our Catholic convictions too.
The second question and challenge we are confronted with is: How to approach with our message the present modern or postmodern mentality in our secularised and pluralistic Western society. Here, difficult ethical and pastoral problems arise and our faithfulness to the Gospel message is challenged. But what does faithfulness beyond fundamentalism and liberalism mean? These are not easy questions and the answers are sometimes different.
Not easy questions - but for the good of our people we are not allowed to give up. It is our duty to do our best to find common answers, as we are resolved to do in the third phase of our Arcic dialogue which is just about to start. May God bless them and bestow his Holy Spirit to all members of the new Commission!
For we know, though we have to work hard for unity of all the people of God, unity is not our human work and achievement; it is a gift of the Spirit, the gift of a renewed Pentecost. So for the Second Vatican Council and for me personally, spiritual ecumenism is the very heart of ecumenism. When I left office at the end of June last year I remembered a metaphor of the father of spiritual ecumenism, Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyon, who called spiritual ecumenism an invisible monastery. In a visible monastery monks live and pray together, in the invisible ecumenical monastery Christians of different Churches in different countries and on different continents live separated from one another and they pray in different languages in different places; but they all are united in the same prayer and the same longing that all may be one.
It is my impression and my firm conviction that this spiritual monastery is growing and augmenting. Though there is much disaffection and disappointment among our faithful and in our clergy about the ecumenical development, and there are reasons for it. But my hope is put on the growing and augmenting ecumenical spiritual cooperation between groups and communities from different Churches in everyday prayers and in meetings where they read the Bible together, exchange their spiritual experiences and pray together. Mostly these are small groups, or sometimes big gatherings such as those organised by the Foccolarini, Sant' Egidio and others in Stuttgart where thousands of participants came, and soon there will be another meeting in Brussels. This shows that ecumenism is not dead; it is vibrant and it is engaging in a new and hopeful phase of its history. It is going back to its origins and roots and reaching out for the future.
So, Your Grace, I am confident that the small seeds we were able to plant together in these years with the help and the blessing of the Lord will grow up and at the right time will bear fruit. It is not up to us to decide where, when and how. It is enough to embark in the right direction to row as much we can, sometimes also to sail against the wind, but to preserve the longing for a good goal.
Thus, Your Grace, I thank you for the honour of this invitation, for the delicious meal, the highly esteemed company and not the least for the way we could walk together in the last years. I wish you and all the guests a happy and peaceful New Year, the blessing of Almighty God on your important work and for your Church and God's gracious guidance on our shared ecumenical walk. Thank you very much.
Cardinal Walter Kasper is the former head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
10 February 2011 12:00 (1 of 1)
'this spiritual monastery' is alive and slowly growing in our small town of Ashburton in Devon, even though our congregation at Sunday Mass is small (20-30), the Church of England and especially the Methodist Church give it good support.
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