The new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome says he sees promising signs for more visible ecumenism in these early days of Pope Francis’s pontificate.
The Most Rev. David Moxon, who became ACR’s director on May 23, says he’s been steadily encouraged by symbolic acts, such as the pope’s solicitation of prayers from a diverse crowd in St. Peter’s Square and his washing of at least one non-Christian’s feet during Holy Week.
“These are signs of hope in a very down to earth and genuine way,” Archbishop Moxon said via email from Rome. In addition to his role as director, Moxon is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See.
The new pope has a reinvigorated venue for nurturing closer ties with the Anglican Communion. The International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission was formed in 2001 and has been recently reconstituted, according to Moxon.
“Watch this space and the interest of the new pope and the new Archbishop of Canterbury in this work in particular,” he said.
As Pope Francis settles in, Moxon sees no great need for a groundbreaking statement on what holds Christians together or anything on the order of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995). Churches have more work to do in living by the principles of Ut Unum Sint, he said, and might do well to focus efforts there.
Foundational sections of the Anglican Covenant, which aims to foster unity across provinces, will continue to guide Anglicans in a helpful way, Moxon said. They “offer some potential doctrinal cohesion … even if the Covenant as a whole isn’t accepted everywhere.”
For the Vatican’s part, a new age of ecumenism under Pope Francis might manifest less through new statements or agreements and more through visible projects that put intentions into practice.
“A new day will be made visible,” Moxon said, “by clear demonstrations of unity over issues like justice and peace, like the environment, like solidarity with the poor, and with ordinary acts of compassion where the wounds of the world bleed the most.”
G. Jeffrey MacDonald