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May 12, 1977 Archbishop Coggan, Pope Paul Sign Unity Declaration 77151

Episcopal News Service

Vatican City -- Archbishop Donald Coggan of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, met here in late April in private audience with Pope Paul VI and the two leaders signed a joint declaration on unity.

Present at the April 28 private audience were Cardinal Jan Willebrands and Bishop Ramon Torrella Cascante, president and vice president of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity; Bishop John Howe, secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Bishop Edward Knapp-Fisher, former Anglican Bishop of Pretoria, South Africa, and now Canon of Westminster Abbey.

Following the private talks, other members of Dr. Coggan's party joined the two leaders in the pontiff's private library, where the 79-year-old Pope said it was "a particular joy for us to gather in this spirit with Your Grace and with other leaders of the Anglican Communion, which in the words of the Second Vatican Council has with us 'a special place. '"

"We greet you and bid you welcome here," Pope Paul concluded. "May your visit be fruitful and carry us forward along the pilgrim way of love and unity in the Risen Christ."

Archbishop Coggan told the group of his appreciation for the opportunity to meet and speak together with Pope Paul in private audience "for more than an hour in love, frankness, and at ease."

At another service -- the unveiling and blessing of new bronze doors of the American Episcopal Church of St. Paul's-Within-the-Walls in Rome -- Dr. Coggan had asked rhetorically: "Has not the time come when we have reached such a measure of agreement on so many of the fundamentals of the Gospel that a relationship of shared communion can be encouraged by the leadership of both our Churches?" He pointed out that in many places -- with or without local official sanction -- there is shared communion between members of the two churches.

The Pope was not present for this ceremony at St. Paul's.

On April 29 Archbishop Coggan and Pope Paul joined in a service of prayer for unity and exchanged the kiss of peace in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

The members of the Anglican and Roman Catholic parties who were present heard the Pope renew "the pledge to a serious dialogue, which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that perfect unity and truth for which Christ prayed," and the Archbishop express the hope that "in the intimacy of growing communion, Catholics and Anglicans will become signs of God's love and instruments of his peace in the power of the Holy Spirit. "

At the conclusion of the liturgy of the Word, the two leaders went to the Vatican's Pauline Chapel, where they signed a joint declaration on unity.

The unity document reaffirmed the common elements of the faith of both Christian Churches, urged continuation of top-level theological discussions, especially in the matter of mixed marriages between Anglicans and Roman Catholics and on the question of remarriage after divorce, and called for "more earnest collaboration" in the field of evangelization, so as to present "a greater common witness to Christ before the whole world."


[thumbnail: The Archbishop of Canterb...]