Friday, August 08, 2008

Anyone for Schadenfreude? What Roman Catholics fear from an Anglican split

[] 8 Aug 2008--The Archbishop of Canterbury was not the only church leader to be thankful that the Lambeth conference ended with the Anglican Communion still in one piece. An almost audible sigh of relief could be heard from the Vatican.

“The last thing the pope would wish to do is support any kind of division,” said Keith Pecklers, a Jesuit professor of Liturgy at the Gregorian University in Rome. That may seem odd. If the Church of England splits, Catholicism stands to gain new adherents. Traditionally minded Anglican priests and bishops—and, in some cases, most of their flocks—can be expected to defect to Rome.

One reason why senior Catholic clerics view a possible schism with dismay is personal and emotional. As the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenicism noted, the Anglican Communion occupies a “special place” in relation to the Catholic church. In the 44 years since then, many Catholics have invested time, effort and prayer in trying to reunite with the Church of England, and there have been moments when they dared to hope it was possible. Good friendships and working relationships have been formed along the way (one is between Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor). No one likes to hear a row in a friend’s house.

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