Responding to the confusion over his absence at the announcement of Anglicanum coetibus, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Council for Christian Unity, explains what happened in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano. Sandro Magister, veteran Vatican-watcher relates the story in Chiesa Online...
The phone call in the middle of the night from the archbishop of Canterbury. The distrust of the Eastern Churches. The head of Catholic ecumenism takes us behind the scenes of "Anglicanorum cœtibus"
by Sandro Magister ROME, November 18, 2009 – Cardinal Walter Kasper has admitted it: "There has been a bit of confusion." He himself contributed to some of the confusion, involuntarily.
When on October 20 Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, announced the imminent publication of an apostolic constitution that would regulate the admission of groups from the Anglican Communion into the Catholic Church, he, Kasper, president of the pontifical council for Christian unity and therefore absolutely entitled to be involved, was not in Rome, but in Cyprus, busy with completely unrelated matters.
From this, some deduced that Kasper had wanted to distance himself from a decision that was not his own and with which, perhaps, he did not entirely agree.
Cardinal Kasper was in Cyprus because the island was hosting, from October 16-23, the second round (after the first in Ravenna in 2007) of theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox on how to understand papal primacy. An ecumenical dialogue of capital importance, in which Kasper led the delegation from Rome.
There was, therefore, a perfect justification for his absence from Rome at the moment of the announcement of "Anglicanorum Cœtibus," finally signed by the pope on November 4 and made public on the 9th. But the silence that Kasper maintained on the question even after his return from Cyprus continued to prompt speculation about his reservations.
Cardinal Kasper broke this silence with an interview published in "L'Osservatore Romano" on November 15.
The interview is full of clarifying new information. And it gives a little glimpse behind the scenes.
"Let's stick to the facts," Cardinal Kasper says in the interview. "A group of Anglicans has asked freely and legitimately to enter the Catholic Church. This is not our initiative. They first approached our council [for Christian unity], and, as president, I replied that the competency belonged to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. [...] The council has always been kept informed by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and it is not true that it was pushed aside. We did not participate directly in the conversations, but we were kept updated, as is proper. The text of the [apostolic] constitution was prepared by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. We saw the draft and presented our proposals."
In any case, the gestation of "Anglicanorum Cœtibus" was kept secret until the last moment, even from the highest authorities of the Anglican Church. When the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (in the photo with Benedict XVI), was told that it was about to be published, Kasper was already in Cyprus. And he says that Williams called him in the middle of the night, to ask him for an explanation. Kasper says in the interview:
"We we talked about the significance of the new apostolic constitution, and I reassured him about the continuation of our direct talks, as indicated to us by Vatican Council II and as the pope desires. He replied to me that for him, this confirmation is a very important message."
A couple of days later, on October 20, Williams made the announcement from London about the upcoming release of the apostolic Constitution, together with the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, Vincent G. Nichols, at precisely the same time as Cardinal Levada was making the same announcement in Rome. For this reason as well, Kasper says that he appreciates "the balanced attitude" of the archbishop of Canterbury. "Our personal relationship is cordial and transparent. He is a man of spirituality, a theologian. In reality, the obstacles to ecumenical dialogue today can come only from tensions within the Anglican world."
This last statement must be stressed. In Kasper's view, both the desire of some Anglican groups to change to Catholicism and the obstacles to a more general reconciliation between Rome and Canterbury arise not from the desire of the Catholic Church to "expand its empire" ("a ridiculous comment," the cardinal snaps), but from causes entirely internal to the Anglican Communion.
The cardinal describes these causes in the interview...
Read the rest in Chiesa Online. The original text of the interview with Cardinal Kasper published in "L'Osservatore Romano" on November 15, 2009: > Una possibilità concreta non contraria all'ecumenismo