Vatican Reaches Out
Within a few weeks during May and June, Pope John Paul II, with the stroke of a pen, created the instruments of unity which are destined to draw Rome’s wayward Anglican and Lutheran daughters back into her fold.
Long viewed by the Vatican as “Mary’s dowry,” England has been a thorn in the side of the Roman Catholic Church since King Henry VIII split the church in England off from Vatican dominance and established the Church of England in 1534.
Just 14 years prior to this event, Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Church and, following his famous burning of the papal bull of excommunication issued by Pope Leo X, established the breakaway Lutheran Church.
Despite the continuing efforts of ecumenicism which have prevailed between Vatican, Anglican and Lutheran hierarchies over the past 40 years, these two Protestant daughters remained estranged from their mother church. Estranged, but increasingly drawn together, particularly by the efforts of an aging, highly political and articulate Pope John Paul II who has dedicated his papacy to the union of Europe and the reunion of Protestantism with Catholicism.
The accord struck between the Vatican and the Church of England on the May 12 accepts that in the event that union occurs between Anglicanism and Rome, the bishop of Rome would exercise universal primacy.
In the accord between the Vatican and Lutheran churches, compromise language crafted the document in such a fashion as to allow for a congruence on the subject of the churches’ interpretation of what theologians call “justification,” their individual views of the means to attaining salvation.
In the same reconciliatory mood, Pope John Paul visited Romania in May. This was the first papal visit to an orthodox country in over 1000 years. As with the Anglican and Lutheran situations, the main issue with Orthodoxy has been papal supremacy.
Although Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism still seek to negotiate a middle ground for agreement, this pope is pulling out all stops to lay the groundwork for roping the wayward eastern wing of the church back into its fold. The Vatican’s accelerated efforts to draw Eastern Europe into the EU will only work in favor of Eastern Europe returning to its Holy Roman empirical traditions.