A breakthrough 40 years ago on the doctrine of the Eucharist was seen as a landmark over one of the most divisive issues at the time of the Reformation and after. Yet it continues to divide today, writes The Tablet in an editorial.
In earlier centuries, it was divisive largely because each side, Anglican and Catholic, preferred to emphasise their points of disagreement with the other for reasons which had much to do with the politics of the time. The divisiveness remains, despite the 1971 joint statement, because access to Communion in each other’s services is still opposed by the Catholic Church. Under the new mood in ecumenical relations since the election of Pope Francis, is it not time this problem was addressed?
To pose this as a question is to recognise that real difficulties remain. When Rome’s response finally came, in 1991, it was broadly negative: the degree of agreement was not sufficient. It is still the case, therefore, that Anglicans attending Catholic Masses are not invited to take Communion, but instead are offered a blessing by the priest. This can cause painful feelings of rejection.
In exceptional circumstances – for instance if a member of the Church of England is holidaying in rural Spain – the bar on receiving Communion at a Catholic Mass is relaxed. It is in any event self-enforced. The fact that exceptions are already allowed suggests further exceptions would not necessarily raise new difficulties. The easiest cases would be where Catholics and Anglicans attend residential conferences together, or joint services during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Inter-denominational marriages are a similar issue, where both partners attend a Catholic Mass.
FULL STORY Road to unity opens again