The Malines Conversation Group, an informal gathering of Catholic and Anglican theologians interested in dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, met near Rome April 17-27, Vatican Radio reports.
During seminars and conversations at Palazzola, the group reflected on the first fifty years of the ARCIC dialogue and the harvesting of its many fruits, the sacramentality of life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the relationship between the local and the universal Church, and explored the dynamics of theological thinking about the sanctity and future of the Church. The group continued its exploration of contemporary and historic ordination rites, considered more deeply questions arising from Apostolicae Curae and Saepius Officio (both in relationship to the context of the original Malines Conversations, and within the framework of subsequent developments in both communions), reflected on the riches to be shared in future thinking about the life of the Church, and discerned mutual learning about priesthood and ministry in a shared late modern context. Additionally, the Group reflected on some ecclesiological and ecumenical implications of Pope Francis’ recent Post Synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
This year the group was joined by several invited guests, including The Right Reverend Dr Geoffrey Rowell (former Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe and noted scholar of the nineteenth century), The Right Reverend David Hamid (co-Chair of IARCCUM and suffragan bishop in the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe) and Monsignor Kevin W. Irwin, former Dean of Theology at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., USA.
The original “Malines Conversations” took place 1921-27, after Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders “null and void.” The work of the current conversation group is devoted to discussing present-day obstacles to unity “in an atmosphere of friendship, honesty and frankness to see where progress might be made,” according to Fr. Tony Currer of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, one of the Catholic participants in the group, quoted in the article.
He continued: “I think it’s true to say we don’t use the language of ‘null and void’ any more” as that’s “clearly not what is spoken by the gestures, generosity, and warmth which we see time and time again.”
The gathering was welcomed at the Vatican and met with with Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and with Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. They also were warmly greeted by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, at the Anglican Centre in Rome, and by the Prior of the monastic community at the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio from which St Augustine was sent to England by Pope St Gregory the Great.
The Vatican Radio report on the meeting, along with the official statement from the group can be found here.