Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury have said relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion will not be obstructed by a recent Vatican offer to allow disaffected Anglicans to maintain some of their traditions if they convert - writes Luigi Sandri.
An official communiqué issued following the recent meeting at the Vatican between the two Christian leaders, said that they reiterated, "the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans".
A commission preparing a third phase of international theological dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church is due to meet in the coming days, the statement said.
The meeting was the first between Pope Benedict and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury who is the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, since the publication by the Vatican of the new procedures for groups of Anglicans who wish to join the Catholic Church.
That announcement had come from the Vatican's doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It triggered speculation that there was dissatisfaction in Anglican circles about the way it was made and its timing.
The Guardian newspaper in London quoted a spokesperson for the archbishop as saying that at his meeting with the Pope, Williams had "expressed concern at the [decree announcing the special arrangements] and the way it happened".
Williams said at the time of the announcement in a letter to Anglican leaders around the world that he had been informed of the decision only at, "a very late stage".
The communiqué issued after their 21 November 2009 meeting stated that the Pope and the archbishop had discussed, "recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion".
Still, the statement noted a need to promote "forms of collaboration and shared witness" to respond to "the challenges facing all Christian communities at the beginning of this millennium".
During a lecture in Rome before meeting the Pope, Williams had spoken of a "strong convergence" in documents drawn up in the past as part of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue. In the light of such agreement, Williams questioned whether the issues that divide the two traditions such as the role and powers of the Pope still have the same weight.
He asked, "Can there, for example, be a model of unity as a communion of churches which have different attitudes to how the papal primacy is expressed?"
Writing on the website of America Magazine, a US publication, Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh said that the dialogue between the two traditions "appears to be back on track after some years in the sidings".
He noted that a key advisor to Williams, the Rev Jonathan Goodall, was remaining in Rome in the coming days to prepare for the new round of Anglican-Catholic dialogue.
"Is there an Anglican plan being brewed - a 'covenant' that would commit the Churches of tradition (Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox) to working together more closely, recognising the Pope as the 'focus of unity' but not his Vatican I powers? Watch this space."
Ivereigh - a former advisor to the retired leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - was referring to the decision in 1870 by the First Vatican Council to dogmatically define papal infallibility.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]