My dear friend Jessica has highlighted in warmth and charity a remarkable but largely overlooked moment here at the beginning of our Year of Faith: Jessica’s own archbishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, addressed the Catholic Synod of Bishops in Rome yesterday, offering meaningful words on the contemplation of Christ and its essential connection with sharing Christ with others. As the bishops and Catholics worldwide discuss the New Evangelization and our call to share the Gospel in today’s world, his words were especially timely.
But even more than what Archbishop Williams said, I am gladdened by the ecumenical step this represents — both that Pope Benedict invited Archbishop Williams to speak, that Williams agreed, and that the Catholic bishops received him graciously. To my knowledge, this is the first time the leader of a major Protestant sect has ever addressed an assembled synod of Catholic bishops. This may seem to some a small step, but considering the five hundred years of history that have passed between us, the bloodshed and fear and anger and many martyrs for both causes — this, to me, marks a huge step forward.
The Anglican Communion, especially some branches of it like Jessica’s, may be closer in thought and feeling to Rome than any other division of our separated brethren — in fact, some branches are already breaking off to return to us. Archbishop Williams’ address to our bishops is but one step — but the road to reunion must be walked a step at a time. It is my deepest and sincerest hope that we can continue to take steps such as this.