Frail pope meets Anglican Archbishop over gays
October 3, 2003
VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II, frail and in failing health, was to meet the
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at the Vatican Saturday for
their first encounter since Williams' appointment as spiritual
leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans last year.
Their meeting was not expected to be a long one, since the
Pope's physical condition is giving cause for serious concern, as a
number of senior church officials have openly acknowledged in
Aged 83, the pope is crippled by a combination of Parkinson's
disease and arthritic complaints.
Although the Vatican and the Anglican church have in general
enjoyed a friendly relationship over recent decades there are major
differences between them, notably over homosexual priests, a
controversy that threatens to divide the Anglican church itself.
Talks between the pope and Williams come ahead of the 25th
anniversary of John Paul's ascension to the papal throne.
Williams' visit also precedes an emergency summit of Anglican
bishops from around the world to discuss gay ordination.
The summit, called by Williams and to take place in London in
mid-October, comes after the confirmation of openly gay cleric Gene
Robinson as Episcopal bishop of the US state of New Hampshire
earlier this year.
Williams, who took office as Archbishop of Canterbury in
February following his appointment last year, is known for his
liberal views and his support – in principle – for the
appointment of gay clergy.
He raised no objection to the appointment in July of the openly
gay Canon Jeffrey John as bishop for the British town of Reading.
John later withdrew his candidacy to avert a schism between
conservative and liberal factions within the Church of England.
A senior prelate who had discussions with Williams on Friday
said they had covered ecumenical issues, and had helped push
forward work on a joint document on the Virgin Mary. But he did not
conceal the concern of the Vatican about the issue of homosexual
The issue of woman priests, accepted by Anglicans, but ruled out
by the Roman Catholic church, has also been a bar to closer ties.
Williams's predecessor George Carey was a regular visitor to the
Vatican though the Pope himself has made only one visit to
predominantly Protestant Britain, back in 1982. –Sapa-AFP
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