Statement from the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

The following is a statement from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, in response to the Vatican’s announcement of an Apostolic Constitution earlier this week.

I hereby acknowledge the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution (a formal papal decree) whereby Pope Benedict XVI makes provision for groups of Anglicans who, while retaining certain aspects of Anglican Tradition, wish to be received into communion with the See of Rome.  I offer the following comments.

This is not an entirely new phenomenon. For a number of years, Rome has made provisions for individual Anglicans to be received.  What is unique about this provision is that it responds to groups of Anglicans who have made special enquiries.  Who these groups are has not been announced.

As Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in a letter to the Bishops of the Church of England and to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, “It remains to be seen what use will be made of this provision since it is now up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution.”

It is not clear how their desire to retain certain aspects of Anglican Tradition will be honoured. That may spelled out in more detail in the “code of practice” within the constitution.

From a Canadian perspective I do not foresee a groundswell of response to these provisions.  I say this knowing that even among those who have separated themselves from the Anglican Church of Canada, there is an abiding desire to remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to maintain a place within the family of churches we know as the Anglican Communion.

I believe that among the vast majority of Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Canada and in the world there is a genuine commitment to build on 40 years of formal dialogue between our Communions. We acknowledge substantial agreement on many matters of faith. We embrace the call to action articulated in the 2007 statement Growing Together in Unity and Mission produced by the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission.  That statement takes us into a new phase of common witness in the service of the Gospel — locally, nationally, and internationally.

While this announcement from the Vatican creates some shock waves, I do not believe them to be seismic.  I believe the greater will of the whole church while acknowledging our “real but imperfect communion” is to continue steadfast in dialogue that will lead us more deeply into that unity for which The Lord prays, “That they all may be one.”  (John 17:21)

Fred Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate

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