This news item from CNA reports recent discussions in the Vatican about the increasing numbers of Anglicans and Episcopalians who wish to become Catholics. Certainly this is referring to the recent letter from the Traditional Anglican Communion asking for sacramental unity with the Catholic Church.
Positive steps forward are very possible with this pope. It should be remembered that it was Joseph Ratzinger who made possible the generous reception of individual Anglicans over the last couple of decades. While Pope John Paul II said to UK Cardinal Hume, “Be generous to these men” it was Ratzinger’s congregation that processed the applications, approved dispensations for married former Anglican clergy and moved the process forward speedily. Over those years the Anglican use parishes were approved and pioneered and the Anglican Use liturgy was approved. Everything is now in place for a worldwide Anglican Use network to be approved and developed.
Such a development would be consistent with Pope Benedict’s vision of Church Unity. Part of his approval a more widespread celebration of the Latin Mass is the underlying idea that there can be more liturgical variety within the Church according to circumstances and cultural and historical necessities. A wider appreciation of different approved liturgies would allow greater unity within diversity. An opening to the Anglican Use worldwide would also remind us how we could be united with the ethnically and liturgically diverse churches of the East.
What Pope Benedict sees clearly is that there is an increasing chasm within Christendom. It is not between Eastern Orthodox and Latin Catholicism. It is not between Catholicism and Protestantism. Instead the chasm is between those who believe that Christianity is a divinely revealed religion given for the eternal salvation of humanity; and between those who believe Christianity is a human construct to make life better on earth, that may (and should) be adapted for each succeeding generation and culture.
Wherever possible Pope Benedict wants to gather those who believe the former into one flock under one shepherd. I believe he wants to do this not for his own glory, not for the glory of the Catholic Church, not out of any sense of triumphalism, but because he believes that a supernatural battle is going on for the soul of mankind, and that only a united Church as the Body of Christ on earth can have the power to finally overcome Satan and all his works.