After the release of the details behind the Vatican's plan to receive disaffected Anglicans, the scheduled visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome attracted much more attention than it had to date. The details of the visit went just as everyone expected. But the nuance and implications of how the events were handled are being examined for clues about the present state of relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.
An editorial in the Guardian points out that there was more going on than many reports would lead us to believe:
"In reality, it was clearly tense. Relations are strained following the Pope's recent offer of special conversion terms for disaffected Anglican conservatives unhappy with Dr Rowan Williams's tolerance of homosexuality and the ordination of women.
The Vatican says the offer was meant as ecumenism. Many Anglicans felt it was a land grab exploiting divisions within their ranks. Dr Williams was criticised at first for his softly-softly response, giving only carefully coded public expressions of resistance to the Vatican's approach. Anglicans feared their archbishop was a pushover. But judging by icy formalties after yesterday's encounter, Dr Williams was more forthright in private."
The Archbishop gave an interview on Vatican Radio and the BBC following the interview, and a speech (not attended by the Pope) before the interview. The speech was unusual in that Rowan Williams challenged the Roman Catholic Church to revisit its opposition to the ordination of women.
Most of the press seems to have played up the "everything is okay" message that the diplomatic language tried to say. But clearly it's not, at least not according to people able to read between the lines.
A fuller analysis of the visit can be found here.
The article ends with this observation:
Williams said he gave Benedict a copy of the speech but they did not discuss it. Although the Vatican photos show him gazing with appreciation at the gift of a golden pectoral cross from the pope, none of the nine shots that we ran show Benedict thumbing through — or even holding — the text of the archbishop’s challenge to Rome’s all-male clergy.