Monday, February 19, 2007

Rowan Goes American... and Ignatian

During a Sunday sojourn away from Dar es Salaam -- where the primates of the Anglican Communion are meeting/ splitting/ something -- the archbishop of Canterbury took the money quote of a homily built on "Amazing Grace" from an even more-curious source, evidenced in this graf:

Bishops say many words to one another – just as they say many, many words to you. Very early in the history of the Church there was a great saint who said that God was especially evident when Bishops are silent. But that is perhaps only to say that there is one thing to say to another bishop, that a bishop should say to God’s people and God’s people should say back to a bishop; I remember two things; that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great saviour’.

The "silent" talk comes from St Ignatius of Antioch, who said in one of his letters that "[T]he more anyone sees a bishop to be silent, the more reverence he should feel towards him." He observed the same on another occasion -- "amazed" at one bishop's "moderation," the first-century father of the church deemed a quiet prelate "more powerful than those who speak."

Of course, the line's been predominantly interpreted as a veiled jab at the vocal primates of the Global South, particularly Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the lone national representative absent from yesterday's Eucharist in Zanzibar.

Intriguingly, though, it's Ignatius who also provided for posterity the image of the bishop of Rome "presiding in charity" over the churches. Repeatedly cited by Benedict XVI since his election, the line is a favorite of the sitting pontiff, who even pulled it out at last year's Ecumenical Vespers to mark the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (...a speech Williams will have undoubtedly read).

In light of the freshly-leaked reconciliation proposal, could the über-perceptive Canterbury -- shown above visiting a former slave market during the primates' island escape -- be employing Ignatius to show his hand?

Suffice it to say, stranger things have happened. And no, Rowan's Roman Eucharist is not one of them.

PHOTO: Reuters/Emmanauel Kwiitema