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Anglicans and Catholics on the Way to the Future: Lessons from Malines
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The 10th anniversary of the “Malines Conversations Group” was celebrated on Friday, December 15, 2023, in Westminster Abbey. Addressing those present and commenting on the group’s work over the past decade, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said, “What a sign of hope it is, for both our communions, that a group of Catholic and Anglican theologians could meet in friendship and work together to address some of our remaining disagreements! The unity of the Church of Christ is a precious gift which we have all spoilt, and I pray that your group will continue to thrive and to help us all to grow closer together in faith and friendship.”

The path that led to the 1920s “Malines Conversations” had begun many years earlier – in the winter of 1890 – on the island of Madeira through a chance meeting between Lord Halifax and French Vincentian priest, Étienne Fernand Portal. When he was an Anglican student at Oxford, Halifax had been attracted to Tractarianism and then to the Oxford Movement, while Portal, after pondering Anglicanism for years, had gradually become convinced that “reunification” could not be synonymous with submission to Rome or “ecumenism by returning,” but rather with “union by convergence.”

The friendship between the two men grew and, thanks to the warm invitation of the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier, the Conversations, hosted by the cardinal in his residence, got under way in December 1921. Several other Anglican and Catholic theologians were invited to join the group and they planned to explore differences in doctrine and liturgical-sacramental practice, to seek convergence and ultimately resolution.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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