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."