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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Church scholars offer Mary accord
A statue of the Virgin Mary in Portugal
Statues of Mary adorn Catholic churches around the world
Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians have come to a landmark agreement on teachings about Mary, mother of Jesus.

They said Catholic beliefs about Mary, revered as the Blessed Virgin, are compatible with Anglican traditions and that division over doctrine could end.

The Churches differ in their beliefs on whether Mary was free of original sin and how she was assumed into heaven.

A report prepared by the scholars will now be considered by the Vatican and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Both had supported the talks by the scholars, who met in the US city of Seattle at the culmination of decades of debate.

Correspondents say the tone of the report, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, raises hopes of a rapprochement between the two largest branches of Christianity, but there is no guarantee that the recommendations will be accepted.

Scripture test

The co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth, Australia, described the Catholic traditions as "consonant" with Anglican beliefs.

Anglicans traditionally reject Catholic teachings about Mary, saying there is no Biblical basis for the claims that she was the product of immaculate conception and so free of original sin, or evidence that she was accepted body and soul into heaven upon her death.

Archbishop Carnley said future discussions would help ease deep-rooted disagreements.

For Anglicans, the old complaint that the dogmas about Mary were not provable by scripture "will disappear", he said.

The commission has debated the key issues dividing Protestantism and Catholicism since it was set up in the 1960s, and numbers senior scholars from both Churches among its members.

Two women are among those in the working group.

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