One can guess what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say to Pope Benedict when the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion travels to the Vatican later this year. The more interesting question might be what Queen Elizabeth is likely to say when she hosts the pope next year. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth, 13 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)
The timing of the trips couldn’t be more intriguing, especially the second one. The pope is due to visit Britain in September 2010 and is expected to preside there over the beatification of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous 19th-century convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism.
The queen is, after all, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, many of whose flock the pope is seeking to poach with his offer last week allowing Anglicans to convert en masse while keeping many of their traditions. And among her honorifics is “Defender of the Faith.” While that sounds impressive, it pales in comparison to Benedict’s long string of titles including “Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.” But oneupmanship is a British sport, so one never knows how these things can turn out.
It is unclear how many CofE traditionalists, upset at moves to ordain women bishops and the issue of homosexuality, will move over to Rome, but the conservative Anglican group Forward in Faith suggested 12 Church of England bishops may switch – more than a quarter of their total.
It was suggested by the Daily Telegraph newspaper earlier this month, before the Vatican effectively sabotaged decades of dialogue between the two churches, that the pope would receive a warm welcome at Buckingham Palace. “The warmth of her welcome will come as no surprise to the pontiff,” it said.