We need ARCIC III to guide us along the difficult path to unity

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury pray together last Friday (CNS)

William Oddie’s article provides a helpful opportunity to describe the origins, integrity and credibility of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission in its third phase (ARCIC III).

From the point of view of the joint chairmen of the commission, we are engaged in this process because of the solemn commitment of both our communions to continue the mandate and imperative laid down in the Gospel according to St John, “that they may all be one”. Jesus’s command that we seek unity in Him, in and through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father is an initiative that may never be forgotten or abandoned, no matter how difficult the task. We give ourselves to this cause as part of the very DNA of the Church and of Our Lord’s command, seeking His will for all Christians.

We firmly believe that we are mandated by our respective ecclesial authorities who have charged us with the task of dialogue between Roman Catholics and Anglicans in particular, notwithstanding the serious obstacles to full reunion. The vision and commitment of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey to meet in serious and scholarly, prayerful encounter has never been rescinded, and has in fact been reiterated on a number of occasions by their successors, most recently by Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams in 2006. We seek to be loyal to these requests and this mission, no matter how hard it seems and no matter what challenges we are faced with.

We are also very conscious of the vision and scope of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ut unum sint which continues to be a vital document for Catholic involvement in ecumenism. The ongoing potentials for unity described in this encyclical have never been contradicted by our respective authorities and we pray earnestly for the day when this vision becomes a reality. The ecumenical views of successive Lambeth Conferences of Anglican bishops and Archbishops of Canterbury have also inspired and encouraged us as we strive for deeper degrees of communion.

Dr Oddie acknowledges that there is some common ground on which Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby may seek to stand: particularly in the areas of global justice and the ethical regulation of financial markets so that these do not oppress men and women. They will also be one in the quest for reconciliation in places of violent conflict. This kind of solidarity in mission is of vital concern to the cause of the kingdom of God in the world, and to the well-being of the human family. ARCIC III is also giving itself to tasks which touch on some of these areas, including the grounds for ethical decision making as well as a theology of work.

Should we give up because our faith communions do not agree over the ordination of women, or should we recognise that what unites us is greater than what divides us? Do we trust the Holy Spirit of God to lead us into all truth, or behave as though the Spirit does not have this power? We have no choice but to believe and to hope in the limitless grace and goodness of God. By drawing ever closer to God in prayer we leave open the potential for being drawn closer to each other.

Archbishop Bernard Longley is the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and Archbishop David Moxon is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See. They are the Catholic and Anglican co-chairmen of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III)