Britain’s Daily Telegraph is quoting Roman Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley as offering his opinion that restrictions on Anglicans and Catholics sharing Holy Communion might be reconsidered – although those hoping for rapid change should take note that the document on which he based his opinion is already 22 years old.
In an interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette, he said that although the two churches now work closely together on a daily basis it was a source of “pain” that they still could not share communion.
But he pointed to a Vatican document published in 1993 as well as a paper produced by bishops in the British Isles which already allows non-Roman Catholics to receive sacraments in very special circumstances, including if they are in danger of death.
Asked whether he thought, that given there had already been a limited relation, there could be room for further changes, he said: “My personal view is, you are right to draw attention to the changes which we have already seen on the basis of a deeper theological understanding of one another’s churches.
“And on that basis the 1993 Ecumenical Directory made possible the reception of Holy Communion by the baptised who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church in a number of specified circumstances and with certain criteria.
“Given that that represents a change and a very significant shift away from the impossibility to the limited possibility then I could imagine and foresee one of the fruits of our ecumenical engagement as moving towards a deeper understanding of communion and a deeper sharing between our churches … which perhaps would lead to a reconsideration of some of the circumstances.”
The Rt Revd Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford in the Church of England, welcomed the remarks and pointed to Pope Francis’ “open tone” as giving cause for hope that the deeper sharing described by Longley.
“I am aware that Rome is considering updating the Directory and now with the more open tone coming from Pope Francis I can see why Archbishop Bernard is thinking that perhaps the time is right for perhaps another look at it,” he said.
“I am very pleased to see the words which Archbishop Longley has spoken in terms of non-Roman Catholics receiving communion under certain circumstances.
“Archbishop Bernard, of course, is a very experienced ecumenist in Britain and internationally.”
Archbishop Longley is the Catholic co-chair of ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, of which Bishop Hill is also a member. Read the Telegraph article here.
Photo credit: Archbishop Bernard Longley, by James Bradley (IMG_1747 Uploaded by gugganij) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons