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“Miscommunication”: Anglican service celebrated by mistake at Pope’s cathedral


By Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

I.Media - published on 04/22/23

Due to "miscommunication," a group of two Anglican bishops and 50 priests visiting Rome were mistakenly given permission to celebrate in the Pope's cathedral.

The celebration of a “Mass” by an Anglican delegation on April 18, 2023, at the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, is due to “miscommunication,” according to a statement issued two days later by the capitular vicar of the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, Bishop Guerino Di Tora. The bishop expressed his “deep regret” for the celebration two days earlier of an Anglican service at the altar of the Pope’s cathedral.

“A group of 50 priests, accompanied by their bishop, all belonging to the Anglican Communion, celebrated (a liturgy) on the high altar of the cathedral of Rome, in violation of canonical norms,” said Bishop Di Tora.

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law indeed reserves to Catholic ministers alone the faculty of celebrating the Eucharist and to the Catholic faithful alone the right to receive it. However, certain specific conditions may allow faithful of Eastern Churches or other Churches the faculty of receiving the sacraments.

This is because, as the Catechism explains, the Eastern Churches still have the sacraments of the priesthood and the Eucharist, meaning they have the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

1399The Eastern churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. “These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy.” A certain communion in sacris, and so in the Eucharist, “given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged.”

An Anglo-Catholic group on an official visit

The ceremony, presided over by the Anglican Bishop of Fulham, Jonathan Baker, has sparked controversy, fomented in particular by the Church Militantwebsite, which reports that he is divorced and remarried, and a Freemason.

The Anglican group meeting this week in Rome is of the Anglo-Catholic tendency, which refuses the ordination of women. The delegation had been received by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the two Anglican bishops leading the group greeted Pope Francis at the end of the general audience on April 19.

But despite the official nature of this visit, the celebration of the liturgy at the Lateran cathedral had not been formally authorized.

This “unfortunate episode was caused by miscommunication,” Bishop Di Tora explained in his statement. According to a member of the chapter interviewed by I.MEDIA, this group was accompanied by a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Rome who had asked that the group be given permission to celebrate, but the representatives of the cathedral who permitted the celebration within the basilica had not understood that this delegation was not Catholic.

Permission is given for Patriarch

This “hiccup” occurred less than a month before the Lateran Cathedral is scheduled to be the site, on Sunday May 14, of an ecumenical event of an unprecedented scale, and this time in a completely official way: Pope Francis has authorized the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II to celebrate a Mass in his cathedral on the occasion of his visit to Rome commemorating the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, and the 10th anniversary of his own previous visit.

This gesture is exceptional, given the fact that the Coptic-Orthodox Patriarch is not within the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church. However, the proximity between Orthodox and Catholics in terms of the sacraments and the Eucharist makes such an invitation possible.

The celebration of a Protestant liturgy at the altar would be impossible in principle, including from an ecumenical perspective, since Protestants do not recognize the Real Presence in the Eucharist through transubstantiation.

Papież Franciszek i Tawadros II
Tawadros II with Pope Francis at the Vatican during his visit in May of 2013

The availability of the Pope’s Cathedral for this Coptic-Orthodox liturgy will cause a shift in the schedule of the Chapter Mass, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. instead of the usual 10:30 a.m.

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