Returning to the Fold

The death of Pope John Paul II prompted some of the most powerful voices from Protestant denominations to sing praises for the mother church. It’s time we understood what lies behind the historic division between Catholics and Protestants—why the two are now moving toward unity—and where it will ultimately lead.

When Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, sat in the front row across from the coffin of John Paul ii, he was making a statement of allegiance that would have been unthinkable not many years ago. He was the first Anglican leader in history to attend a pope’s funeral. He called the pope “one of the very greatest” Christian leaders of the 20th century (Daily Telegraph, London, April 4).

While in Rome, the archbishop made statements signaling that “the rift between Anglicans and Catholics stemming from the Reformation could finally be healed …” (Australian, April 12)—speaking of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. A Guardian headline in London read, “It’s as if the Reformation had never happened.” The archbishop’s actions and words reflect a new type of relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and its protesting, or Protestant, daughter churches.

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