Pope, Anglican leader acknowledge "serious obstacles" on path to closer ties

Thursday, November 23rd 2006, 6:21 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams acknowledged Thursday that there were ``serious obstacles'' on the path to closer ties between Catholics and Anglicans, reflecting tensions over Anglicans' blessings of same-sex unions and steps to ordain female bishops.

The leaders of the two churches, in a joint statement issued after 25 minutes of private talks, said they said they were committing themselves to continuing dialogue. The two men then prayed together in a chapel in the Apostolic palace.

Williams told the pope in a speech that ``disputes about how we apply the Gospel to the challenges thrown up by modern society can often obscure or even threaten the achievements of dialogue'' but that he came, ``ready to hear and to understand the concerns which you will wish to share with me.''

Benedict, while not spelling out the disputes in his speech, appeared to refer to them when he spoke of ``the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the communion itself.''

``Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations with the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church,'' Benedict told Williams.

Their meeting today marked the 40th anniversary of landmark efforts to improve relations between the two churches, which went their separate ways in the 16th century, when England's King Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic Church.

The world's 77 million Anglicans _ including those known as Episcopalians in the United States _ have themselves been threatened with internal division after the elevation in 2003 in the United States of the first openly gay Anglican bishop.

Blessings of unions between men or between women in the United States and Canada have also jolted Anglican-Catholic relations. Also testing relationships, among Anglicans themselves and with Catholics, have been moves by the Episcopal church to select a woman as its leader.

Benedict appeared to be referring to the disputes when he told Williams in his speech: ``We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion with in the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations.''

``We fervently hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic tradition,'' the pope said.

The Catholic Church teaches that, while homosexuals should be treated with dignity, homosexual acts are sinful, and it is campaigning against same-sex unions. It also opposes ordination of women.