What thousand words is this picture saying?
++David Moxon’s own report is here, but I suspect Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox might have their own thousands of words to say.
Pope Francis is really pulling out all the stops to reach out, beyond the strict literalness of Roman law (which, for instance, declares Mr David Moxon to be a layperson) and previously expressed papal views (that, saving the Eastern Orthodox) other Christians belong to “ecclesial communities” and not to actual, real churches. So here he includes Archbishop David Moxon in a shared blessing of thousands of Christians gathered at the end of a week of prayer for Christian unity.
But, wait, there is more.
Pope Francis has also said these words in his homily on the occasion. Words which are full of extraordinary grace and hope for real progress to be made towards actual Christian unity:
“As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. God’s mercy will renew our relationships.” (from the same link above)
Note that Pope Francis is crystal clear: he talks of “other Churches” (not, “ecclesial communities”).
Let me put that in another way: other Churches.
And in case I have not clearly pointed out to you the expression he used, it was: OTHER CHURCHES.
Actually, even more important than such recognition, is the recognition that Catholics have erred. But so have Protestants and I think the “ball” of confession, forgiveness and repentance has been lobbed into our church courts. Who will make reply?
We are living in a new ecumenical era. The wave is flowing, will we catch it or miss it?
What more wonderful demonstration of Christian Unity can there be than this? Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome; an Anglican Archbishop; and an Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan are pictured here giving a corporate Blessing on the occasion of a Roman Catholic-sponsored service at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Holy City itself. And all at thespecific invitation and encouragement of the Pope himself.
This extraordinary show of solidarity with ‘other Christians’ was not just some off the cuff nod to ecumenism but an honest outreach of the reigning Pontiff towards other Church Leaders on his own turf. The only comparable collegial outreach of any reigning pontiff towards the leadership of the Anglican Church was when Pope Paul VIth took off his episcopal ring and gave it to a visiting Anglican Archbishop. Perhaps we Anglicans might hope that the official Roman Catholic denial of the efficacy of Anglican Orders might be re-addressed during the reign of Pope Francis. Too much to hope? I think not.
Granted that Kiwis may be more interested than most Anglicans in this particular occasion – simply because the Anglican prelate pictured here is none other than our very own Archbishop David Moxon, formerly Pakeha Archbishop of ACANZP and currently the Anglican Communion’s Representative to the Holy See, living in Rome. Archbishop David is an acknowleged Anglo-Catholic – whose own episcopal ordination actually took place in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Hamilton, New Zealand. No! He wasn’t ordained to, but only in, the Roman Catholic Church, his own Cathedral in Hamilton being deemed too small for the occasion of his consecration.
I cease to be amazed at the ecumenism and deep humanity of Pope Francis. In his eirenic attitude towards other Christians, and indeed to other religions and all humanity; he has shown the pastoral concern and humility of the Christ he follows. Let’s hope that his concern for others outside of his own ecclesial community will rub off on those members of the Vatican Curia who are currently concerned about just how far he might go to build up the Body of Christ in ways perhaps differently from their own more conservative view.
May this be the beginning of an era in the Roman Catholic Church that will help to break down barriers between people of faith in Christ as Redeemer and Light of the World.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand