I am regularly moved by the generosity that New Zealand Anglicans show towards the Catholic community in our country. This morning I experienced this good-will and encouragement yet again, this time (as often before) on the popular www.liturgy.co.nz website of Rev. Bosco Peters of the Anglican diocese of Christchurch.
Bosco was posting a comment about Sunday’s Faithfest gathering of the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch. His generosity extends to suggesting some “healthy dynamics of Roman Catholicism” that might make such a gathering possible. He is also balanced and realistic, accurately prefacing his comment with the insight that “numbers are not everything.”
Alongside Bosco, significant numbers of Anglican clergy with bishops and parishioners are consistent in their respectful encouragement of New Zealand Catholics at every level, in parishes, in dioceses and also in national ecumenical dialogues.
I have deep gratitude for their practical and sincere friendship towards us Catholics, especially since I am not sure that the Catholic community of New Zealand is as generous towards Anglicans in response.
The late 1960’s through early ’80’s were a time of active friendship between our two communities of faith. It was as if we were fired by the conviction that our co-operation with the Holy Spirit really would heal the scandal of disunity among Christians. Catholics back then were encouraged by the “urgent wish” of the Second Vatican Council seeking to banish both fear and pride from our relationships with other Christians: “that no obstacle be put in the ways of divine Providence and no preconceived judgments impair the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit.” Decree on Ecumenism par.24
I fear that some of our earlier generous spirit and passion for the prayer of Jesus “that they may be one” (John 17:21) may have faded from the Catholic side of our relationship.
Perhaps we Catholics felt that in post-Conciliar confusions we know longer knew what it was to be a Catholic Christian. Did we fear a loss of our own identity if we were too serious about friendship with other Christians? No surprise then that we might have retreated, even at times ignoring the warning of Pope John XXIII in his opening address to the Council: “fired with a commendable zeal for religion… but see nothing but calamity and disaster in the present state of the world.” Have we forgotten that Pope John then stressed that “we feel that we must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand”. (Pope John XXIII, 11 October 1962)
In our own era, Pope Francis is a timely and welcome reminder of the disarming power of non-defensive and generous human friendship, especially in the midst of diverse doctrinal emphases and differences in ecclesial structures.
Thanks to you again Bosco, and to your Anglican sisters and brothers who continue to extend the embrace of friendship towards us Catholics. Your generosity of spirit and warmth of friendship will renew our passion for the visible unity that is the ardent desire of all those who truly seek Christ.