VATICAN CITY – The third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission will begin in May with 18 bishops and scholars set to examine the theology behind some of the thorniest questions creating tensions within the churches and keeping Catholics and Anglicans apart.
The Vatican released a statement Feb. 3 announcing that the dialogue commission would meet May 17-27 at the ecumenical Monastery of Bose in northern Italy and listing the 18 commission members.
Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, met in late 2009. They pledged to continue the formal dialogue even as the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the blessing of gay unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy threatened the unity of the Anglican Communion and made it more difficult for Catholics and Anglicans to see a way for their communities to draw closer together.
Shortly after the pope and archbishop met, the Vatican announced that a new round of dialogue, referred to as ARCIC III, would deal with “fundamental questions regarding the church as communion local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal church comes to discern right ethical teaching.”
Within the Anglican Communion, some local churches have made decisions on ethical issues – including those involving homosexuality – without the full support of the wider church.
ARCIC was established after Pope Paul VI and Anglican Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury met in 1966. The first round of talks, known as ARCIC I, met from 1970 to 1982 and reached agreements on baptism, Eucharist and ministry, and began work on issues related to authority in the church. ARCIC II met from 1983 to 2005 and reached agreements on papal authority, salvation and the church, the church as communion and on a variety of beliefs about Mary.
ARCIC III will be chaired by Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon of New Zealand.
Several women will be involved in ARCIC III; the Anglican bishops and theologians named to the dialogue commission include Paula Gooder, a biblical scholar and professor at several British universities; and Bishop Linda Nicholls, the area bishop for Trent-Durham in the Diocese of Toronto. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, a Canadian ecumenist and director for Unity Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office, is one of the ARCIC III co-secretaries.
The Catholic women named to ARCIC III are Janet E. Smith, a moral theologian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, and Sister Teresa Okure, a professor of New Testament studies at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria and a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.