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Sunday, December 4, 2016
Mary 'no obstacle to unity'
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 The English bishop who sat on the joint Anglican-Catholic Commission, which drew up the historic agreement on Mary, launched yesterday in Seattle, says it shows that Mary need no longer be considered an obstacle to unity between the two Churches. Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ is "doctrinally one of the most important documents to come out of the ARCIC dialogue", said the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham, Malcolm McMahon OP. Bishop McMahon was one of 18 members of a joint commission of theologians from ten countries appointed by the Vatican's Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Anglican Communion. Their long-awaited statement, which follows six years of discussions, is not an authoritative declaration by either the Catholic or the Anglican Churches, but is intended for wider discussion by both. The document is the latest statement from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), the official instrument of dialogue between the two Churches which was established in 1970. In its first phase (1970-1981), ARCIC produced statements on the Eucharist, Ministry, and Authority in the Church. In its second phase (1983 to the present) ARCIC has produced statements on salvation and justification, the nature of the Church, and now the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the doctrine and the life of the Church. While Mary has held an important place in the life and liturgy of both Catholics and Anglicans, the two Marian dogmas (Immaculate Conception and Assumption) as well as Marian devotion in the Catholic Church have been seen as points separating the two Churches. In its 1981 statement, Authority in the Church II, ARCIC noted that the two dogmas "raise a special problem for those Anglicans who do not consider that the precise definitions given by these dogmas are sufficiently supported by Scripture". The new document does not entirely resolve these differences. But it makes a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the content of the two dogmas and on the other, the authority by which they were defined. The Mary document works from the conclusions of the 1999 ARCIC statement "The Gift of Authority". This is what drafters of the Mary document mean when they say that, if its conclusions were accepted by both Churches, this "would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context". The content of the dogmas therefore could be looked at in the framework of Scripture and Tradition, rather than from the point of view of the authority under which they were defined, Bishop McMahon said. The document is a "considerable achievement in increasing the depth of understanding of each Church's position", he said. It meant, he added, that "the different understandings of Mary need not be an obstacle to ecclesial communion". Bishop McMahon said one of the advances was to look at Mary through the eyes of Romans 8:28-30. The Pauline letter becomes, in the Mary document, an interpretive tool for understanding Mary. "The Anglican members of Commission were helped in their understanding of Mary's role in our salvation by looking at the modern doctrines through the eyes of St Paul, using his language of Call, Conversion, Justification and Glorification", he said. One of the benefits of the document will be to assist each Church's understanding of the other's ecclesiology, Bishop McMahon added. "Our Catholic understanding of Mary is strongly connected to the Communion of Saints," he said. "We believe that Mary, as the Queen of Heaven, has a continuing salvific function in the Church. We believe the Church has a dimension - the Communion of Saints - which extends beyond this earth, and this affects our understanding of the Church. Ecclesiology lies at the heart of so much of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue." The document, he said, is therefore a "considerable achievement in increasing the depth of understanding of each Church's position." Bishop McMahon also said that the section on the devotion to Mary in the Anglican tradition ­ in its liturgy, and in the writings of the Divines ­ will help to show both Catholics and some Anglicans the importance of the Marian Anglican tradition. "Anglican-Catholic understanding has been greatly strengthened by this dialogue," Bishop McMahon said. "What we have done is put down a paving stone on the road to Christian unity." Bishop McMahon also welcomed the re-starting of ARCIC's doctrinal commission, the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), which was put on hold in October 2003 following the decision by the Episcopal Church of the USA (Ecusa) to ordain as bishop a priest in an active homosexual relationship. The episcopal ordination of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire led to the Lambeth Commission, which was set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to look into the future shape of the Anglican Communion. In October 2004, the Commission published the Windsor Report. In a joint communiqué on 13 May, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Anglican Communion Office said both the Windsor Report and the reception of it by the Anglican primates in February this year "have offered new hope that our dialogue can continue to make progress towards the full communion which has been its aim since it was first conceived in March of 1966" by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, and the then Pope, Paul VI. The communiqué said that IARCCUM's work would therefore resume following the publication of the Mary Report. Bishop McMahon said: "I am delighted that the doctrinal commission, IARCCUM, will continue to review the major topics of ministry, authority, eucharist and the moral life." Source: Archbishops' House
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