Although the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Bernard Longley, has aid that this is his “personal view”, he said that the ban on Anglicans receiving Roman Catholic Holy Communion could be relaxed as part of moves to bring the two churches together after centuries of division
Archbishop Longley is the Catholic co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), an official body which has been working for the reunification of the two churches for more than 50 years.
In an interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette, he said that although the two churches now work closely together on a daily basis it was a source of “pain” that they still could not share communion.
But he pointed to a Vatican document published in 1993 as well as a paper produced by bishops in the British Isles which already allows non-Roman Catholics to receive sacraments in very special circumstances, including if they are in danger of death.
Asked whether he thought, that given there had already been a limited relation, there could be room for further changes, he said: “My personal view is, you are right to draw attention to the changes which we have already seen on the basis of a deeper theological understanding of one another’s churches.
“And on that basis the 1993 Ecumenical Directory made possible the reception of Holy Communion by the baptised who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church in a number of specified circumstances and with certain criteria.
The Rev Robert Byrne, secretary to the Department for Dialogue and Unity, at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “The hope of all Christians is that one day all will be united in faith and be able to share in one Eucharist. “How and when that day comes, no one can predict. It is up to the Holy Spirit.
“In the meantime, as Archbishop Longley highlights, the Catholic Church permits and even commends access to the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick for Christians of other Churches.
“This is realistically provided for in certain circumstances under specific conditions as spelt out in the 1993 Directory and One Bread One Body of 1998.”