Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Letter by the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough

WE WARMLY WELCOME news on Tuesday 20th October of the forthcoming publication of a Apostolic Constitution outlining a fresh initiative in the search for Unity with the Holy See which many Anglicans in the Catholic tradition have prayed for and pursued. 

This is not a time for sudden decisions or general public discussion.  We call for a time of quiet prayer and discernment.  The coming season of Advent and the celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas, seem to us to provide a good opportunity for this quiet prayer and discernment to take place, as well as some pastoral discussions.  Some Anglicans in the Catholic tradition understandably will want to stay within the Anglican Communion.   Others will wish to make individual arrangements as their conscience directs.  A further group of Anglicans, we think, will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land.  As bishops we would want to reassure people that, whatever decisions people, priests and parishes make, they will find peace and blessing in following what they discern to be God’s will for them.  We have chosen 22nd February, The Feast of The Chair of Peter, to be an appropriate day for priests and people to make an initial decision as to whether they wish to respond positively to and explore further the initiative of the Apostolic Constitution.   Many, understandably, will need a much longer period of discernment and we would counsel against over-hasty reactions of whatever kind.

The Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough visited Rome in Eastertide 2008 and, graciously, were given a hearing in the Vatican.  We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart.  It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome.  We were neither the first nor the last Anglicans to do this in recent years.  Following the decision of General Synod of the Church of England in July 2008 to proceed with the ordination of women to the episcopate, we appealed to the Holy Father for help and have patiently awaited a reply.  This Apostolic Constitution, addressed worldwide, feels to us to be a reply to concerns raised by others and by us and an attempt to allow all those who seek unity with the Holy See to be gathered in without loss of their distinctive patrimony.

+ Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet
+ Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough

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