Vatican’s rules on eucharistic sharing could be further relaxed
From the Church of Ireland Gazette
The Roman Catholic Co-Chair of the Third Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) has expressed his personal view that, seeing how in 1993 certain relaxations were made in the Vatican’s rules on eucharistic sharing, further relaxation is possible.
Speaking last week to the Gazette editor following a joint session of the National Advisers’ Committee on Ecumenism of the Irish (Roman Catholic) Episcopal Conference and representatives of the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, the Most Revd Bernard Longley – Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and ARCIC III Co-Chair -referred to the changes in “specified circumstances” set out in the 1993 Ecumenism Directory.
He commented, “Given that that represents a change, and a very significant shift away from the impossibility to the limited possibility, then I could imagine and foresee one of the fruits of our ecumenical engagement as moving towards a deeper understanding of communion and a deeper sharing, a deeper communion between our Churches which perhaps would lead to reconsideration of some of the circumstances.”
Asked if he felt healing on the issue would indeed come, the Archbishop said, “I know that that will be the case”, and described the “pain” of division at the Eucharist as “a spur” towards resolving the issue.
However, he also pointed to how, over the past several decades, “further challenges – obstacles, if you like – in the way of that have been placed before us and they also have their part to play in what holds us back from sharing the Eucharist together”. He instanced differences over the recognition of Orders.
Affirming that a further relaxation in the Vatican’s regulations “could happen”, the Archbishop added, however, that he “wouldn’t like to predict the rate or the pace of change towards that”.
Archbishop Longley said that the coming together of members within ARCIC III was itself “an experience of communion”, adding, “Because of the balance, I think, of pastors, Church leaders and theologians in their various fields, there is a real respect for the gifts of each other and there has been a real sense in which we’ve been able to exchange those gifts and receive from one another.”
To hear Archbishop Longley being inteviewed by the editor, visitwww.gazette.ireland.anglican.org/audio (Inteview 46)
In this Anglican Church News Service (ACNS) article about the current ARCIC III (Anglican/Roman Catholic) deliberations and their possible future pointing towards a degree of bi-lateral Eucharistic sharing; it is interesting that the Anglican News Service does not mention the presence in the photograph of Anglican Bishop David Moxon, who is a co-Chair with Archbishop Longley in ARCIC, and now the Anglican Representative in Rome. Bishop David is also the former Pakeha Archbishop of the New Zealand Anglican Church, and in that capacity was entrusted by the Anglican Communion as a member and co-Chair of the ARCIC Commission.
However, despite a long-time agreement on the nature of the Eucharist among the Commission’s membership – there has been, to date, no relaxation of Rome’s overall ban on the reception of the Eucharist in Roman Catholic Churches by Anglicans – a situation that is further exacerbated by Rome’s continuing non-recognition of Anglican Orders. This has presented a few anomalous situations, where inter-faith gatherings have sometimes been the scene of a seemingly permissive attitude where non-Roman Catholic participants have been – if not exactly welcomed, then not actively prevented from – receiving The Elements of the Eucharist from a Roman Catholic priest.
I, myself, have received the Eucharist in such a situation – in the strong belief that Christ can take care of Himself in these circumstances, and is in a position to over-rule even the dictates of the Church. On certain occasion of being incognito in a R.C. congregation, I have explained my personal circumstances to the priest, with the assurance that I truly believe Christ is Present in the Mass, and have been permitted to receive the Sacrament.
Perhaps it should be made plain to dispensers of the Sacraments – of whichever ARCIC Partner Church that subscribes to the importance of Eucharistic Unity in Christ – that anyone approaching their altars, believing that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, should be welcomed to receive what they perceive to be the Body and Blood of Christ.
The sooner Rome drops its objection to the validity of Anglican Orders, the sooner this scandal of division on the basis of ‘sacramental assurance’ will be put behind us, and the basic Unity of our parts of The Body of Christ be re-established – especially in the eyes of those scandalised by apparent disunity between our two Churches.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand