- Benedict XVI at Westminster Hall to civil authorities
- Benedict XVI’s address to Anglican Archbp. Williams at Lambeth
- Benedict XVI’s address for Vespers in Westminster Abbey
The phrase that comes to mind is "Nixon goes to China".
Day 2 Benedict’s trip has blown John Paul II’s trip out of the water. I don’t mean that John Paul’s trip wasn’t important or that the crowds weren’t as big. But we have to consider who the players are, and what is taking place and where. What John Paul did was great, but what he did, didn’t matter as much as what Benedict is doing. John Paul’s effort was a continuation of what Paul VI and John XXIII had done. Benedict builds on that, but his project is something quite different.
It is probable that quite a few people are not fans of all the people involved. This isn’t just any Pope, it is a German Pope with the reputation of saying "No" all the time. That in itself makes what he is doing more impressive. Also, this is taking place at Lambeth Palace, Westminster Hall and, Westminster Abbey, which three places tie together the separation of the Church of England, the Crown from the Catholic Church.
What we got today was rapprochement with the state and with the C of E at the same time. Of course, the two go together. This was clear from today’s events. Had a Pope addressed a joint session of Congress would not been nearly as significant as what happened today.
Rapprochement is not communion. No one takes it for that. But in a sense Pope Benedict, and the Crown, and the Church of England, have found some closure today.
Today it was as if a treaty has been signed. The treaty is in the symbolism, rather than on a piece of paper. The essential element of the treaty states: we are over it. We may have a long way to go to be emotionally over it, and we still have a lot to digest. But we recognize that there is no going back.
There may not be a way of going forward either. In concrete relations between the Cof E and the Catholic Church, we may actually be stuck. But we cannot go back to the way things were before in our relations. Something new has transpired in between the Crown, the C of E, and the Church. Do achieve this, Pope Benedict had to give something up. At the same time, he didn’t give up anything essential.
Symbols are important. Today’s rapprochement is symbolic, but not less real for that. The Vicar of Christ, Peter, went to England in a state visit. Perhaps John Paul II would have made a state visit back when, had there not been the tension over the Falkland Islands. But the fact is, his was not a state visit. That had to wait until today.
Benedict gave up something in giving symbolic recognition to the Church of England. He has shifted the way they will talk. That doesn’t mean Benedict thinks that they are on an equal footing. I refer you to Dominus Iesus. Run, don’t walk, to read it again.
Think about this, as well. Benedict is not liked by liberals and secular humanists, and probably by many of Archbp. Williams colleagues. The fact that he is not liked, he is in fact reviled by many in England, made his words and gestures more effective. Had a liberal done this, the symbol would not have made as much difference. People would have shrugged and said, "Well, he’s a liberal. What do you expect?" But this is Papa Ratzinger, and not some theoretical future Papa, say… Ravasi. This Pope went to England.
Who this Pope is is one of the reason why this Pope is the Pope of Christian Unity.
It is interesting to watch and listen to Pope Benedict. He doesn’t show signs of doubt.
No matter what happens at the Newman beatification on Sunday, I don’t think today can be overshadowed. No documents were signed, but this sealed something in Anglican Catholic relations.
As I have argued before on this blog, when Pope Benedict engages in ecumenical relations he gives things up. But he never gives up anything that is essential. Anzi as the Italians say. On the contrary, he affirms what is essential. This is why Pope Benedict’s ecumenical gestures, and his relations with academia and civil authorities, are markedly different from those of his predecessors. He wins real common ground.
Again, something was given away today, but nothing essential. As a matter of fact, the essential was affirmed. Benedict said there are still problems in relations with the Crown and the Church of England. We have done as much as we can and now we will put them before the Lord. That’s what Pope’s do.
A couple more notes:
Anglicanorum coetibus played no role in today’s high-stakes churchcraft. I imagine that Rowan Williams has the sense of this. Pope Benedict’s visit will help the Anglicans get over Anglicanorum coetibus. As a matter of fact, AC assumed the place which Rome thought it had all the time. Anglicans today had the opportunity to view AC through Benedict’s lens.
Moreover… looking back at Archbp. William’s words and Pope Benedict’s words, you had a strong sense from Pope Benedict of Apostolic Tradition. You don’t get that from what William’s said. History of Europe, okay. The other part? Not so much.
Rowan Williams is clearly smart and eloquent. You have the sense in listening to him that he is so smart and eloquent that he doesn’t have to rely on anything other than his eloquence. Anglicans don’t have teaching authority. They are left with being persuasive, eloquent, charming. The C of E is lucky to have him right now. If they didn’t, if they had someone who wasn’t eloquent, they would be flying apart even faster than they are.
On the other hand, Pope Benedict, who is clearly able and willing and happy to rely on the authority of his office, doesn’t have to worry about the sound of his mellifluous tones floating back to him, or seeing the rapt attention in the faces of his listeners. All he does is deliver his straight forward message, eloquent in its authority and force, if not in its delivery. Pope’s have an advantage that way.
Williams today spoke of the need to be persuasive through the example of lifestyle, etc., and not through political organization or clout in the public square. He seems to shy from clear articulation of what Pope Benedict is perfectly comfortable with saying in the public square. I am open to correction if I am wrong about this, but this is my impression.
In that speech at Lambeth Palace, Benedict said "we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ". In the paragraph before Benedict was taking about pluralism and other religions. In making his interfaith point, he points to what secularist humanists do (deny the transcendent, holiness, the true grounds of human dignity, etc.). Then Benedict did something that, it seems to me, Williams won’t do. Benedict said, I repeat…: "At the same time, "we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ." Williams’ talk does not say anything like that.
I am not saying that Archbp. Williams doesn’t believe in Christ. I am not saying or hinting at all that he is shy about naming Christ. It is just that when it comes to the issue of the Christian voice in the public square, the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t talk at all like the Bishop of Rome. He will name Christ, truly, but he won’t make Benedict’s claim.
In that Vesper’s address Williams presented Christ as a model of service. We meet Christ’s almighty power in Christ’s service. Yes. But, in reading it again, does he make any strong claims about faith in Christ over against other humans? He just doesn’t talk about that. The pastor in the Church "bows down in reverence before each human person". Fine. Silence about certain dimensions of Christ doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in them. He just doesn’t say much about those things. Why might that be? It may be that if you are interested in your discourse being picked up by Jews and Muslims, and every other group in a pluralistic society, you won’t stress Christ in speaking as being more than example. Don’t emphasize what gets in the way. I am not suggesting that there is something lacking in his faith in Christ. I am restricting myself to his style. I hope I am not being unfair, but there was something missing from his discourse today and I was intent on hearing it.
Benedict is, on the other hand, fearless. Salvation comes only through Jesus, and he says it.
On the airplane heading to Scotland Benedict said: "Where there is anti-Catholicism I will go forward with great courage and joy."
Benedict has gone to Westminster.
I think he has changed the conversation there.
I am eager to read also what the good analysts in England have to say about today, which was certainly the high point of the state visit. I know that my friend Fr. Finigan will have good insights. These are some thoughts, after watching the three important events today at Lambeth Palace, Westminster Hall, and Westminster Abbey.