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Dr Rowan Williams: Ordinariate ‘may be prophetic’

Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas and Dr Rowan Williams at the Vatican yesterday (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said he would “praise God” for the Ordinariate if it helps people appreciate the Anglican patrimony.

Speaking to Vatican Radio in Rome, Dr Williams was asked about Pope Benedict XVI’s description of the Ordinariate as a “prophetic gesture”.

He said: “Well, I think if the Ordinariate helps people evaluate Anglican legacy or patrimony, well and good, I’m happy to praise God for it. I don’t see it as an aggressive act, meant to destabilise the relations of the Churches, and it remains to be seen just how large a movement we’re talking about.”

Asked again whether he thought it was prophetic, he said: “Maybe yes, in the sense that here is the Roman Catholic Church saying there are ways of being Christian in the western Church which are not restricted by historic Roman Catholic identity – that’s something we can talk about.”

The Anglican leader was speaking after an ecumenical summit in Rome marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. It was attended by Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas and past and present members of the council.

During his interview with Vatican Radio, Dr Williams said that he respected the resignations of five Church of England bishops seeking to join the Ordinariate.

He said: “Obviously my reactions to the resignations is one of regret but respect – I know the considerations they’ve been through, particular the two who were my suffragans, we’ve talked about it, we’ve worked through it and parted with prayers and blessings so there’s no ill feeling there.

“I think the challenge will come in working out shared use of churches, of how we as Anglicans ‘recommend’ people and also of course there will be some parishes without priests so we have a practical challenge here and there.”

The archbishop also spoke of a two-week visit to India where he met victims of anti-Christian persecution.

He said; “I think Christians are drawn closer together than in any other circumstances when they face persecution – in Iraq, Pakistan Indonesia, Orissa or Rajasthan, Christians under pressure don’t have the luxury of waiting to stand together until they’ve sorted everything out. I met first hand with a number of people on the receiving end of violence – a woman who’d seen her husband tortured to death in front of her for refusing to abandon his Christian faith – that’s simply a moment when you realise what the basic truths are.”