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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 April 2005, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Archbishop's visit to Rome hailed
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Williams' decision is seen as a step in the right direction
Catholic and Anglican communities in the UK have praised the Archbishop of Canterbury's decision to attend the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr Rowan Williams will follow the example of former Archbishop Dr Donald Coggan, who attended the inauguration of Pope John Paul II in 1978.

The move is seen as a step forward for relations between the two churches.

But for many Anglicans and Catholics there is still some way to go before their past differences are resolved.

Strained relations

Relations have previously been strained by the ordination of women priests in the Church of England and the appointment of openly gay US bishop Gene Robinson.

The Vatican has never officially recognised the validity of Anglican orders (the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons) or the service of the Eucharist.

Catholic priest of the Portsmouth Diocese, Father Ray Lyons, believes the move by Dr Williams is a positive sign, but that a number of issues need to be clarified and addressed.

We need the same sense of warmth and openess that Pope John Paul II showed particularly in relation to Anglican orders
Reverend Richard Thomas
He said: "The Vatican has always officially failed to recognise the validity of Anglican orders but the previous Pope was a bit more flexible and open about the issue.

"It is not just a case of dealing with this issue alone though. The Anglican Church's stance on gay clerics and women priests are important areas which also need to be addressed.

"But I feel that they can work through these issues. It won't be quick but I'm sure they can work through them comprehensively."

Assistant general secretary for ecumenism and interfaith relations for the Catholic Church of England and Wales, Father Andrew Faley, praised Pope Benedict XVI for expressing his desire to continue relations with the Anglican Church.

He said: "It seems as if he is going to follow in the footsteps of the previous Pope in continuing to show the pastoral care of the Catholic community towards the Anglican community.

'Build bridges'

"This is a very positive step in the sense that Pope Benedict XVI has great respect for the Archbishop.

"But the theological stumbling block is something that still needs to be addressed and there is likely to be a lot of discussion over the issue of Anglican orders and other matters before anything is decided," he said.

Anglican priests have also supported Dr Rowan Williams' decision to attend the inauguration but they believe it is just the first step to resolving past differences.

Reverend Richard Thomas, director of communications for the Bishop of Oxford, said: "I think it's excellent that the Archbishop is being invited and hopefully there will be a continuation of the ecumenical dialogue that was shown under the previous Pope.

Father Andrew Faley
Father Andrew Faley believes the visit is a positive sign

"I think there is a lot of work to do before we are in a position of moving towards doctrinal recognition but that doesn't mean that both churches can't work closely together.

"We need the same sense of warmth and openness that Pope John Paul II showed, particularly in relation to Anglican orders.

"Hopefully Pope Benedict XVI will continue this same ecumenical dialogue when he meets with the Archbishop."

Peter Crumpler, spokesman for the Church Of England, agreed the Archbishop's attendance would be a sign of the continuing close relationship.

"Clearly there are issues which we have different views on, but a lot of work has been done to build bridges between the two churches.

"At a national and a local level there is a great deal of co-ordination between Catholics and Protestants and there is a good relationship between the two churches, even though on a structural level there are some things we may take a different view on," he added.

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