From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3330 Address of Cardinal Walter Kasper at the Enthronement

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Fri, 28 Feb 2003 15:57:43 -0000

ACNS 3330     |     ENGLAND	|     28 FEBRUARY 2003

Address of Cardinal Walter Kasper at the Enthronement Banquet in honour of
the Most Revd and Rt Honourable Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Nikaean Club, Canterbury, 27 February 2003

Your Grace, Mrs Williams, members of the Nikaean Club, honoured guests. It
is a privilege to be able to offer a few brief thoughts on this day of
celebration, and to speak on behalf of the many distinguished guests present
this evening. I trust we are of one heart and mind in wanting to express our
gratitude for the beauty of today's celebration, and our hope that Your
Grace's ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury will be richly blessed by God.

Some 40 years ago, between the first and second sessions of the Second
Vatican Council, John Heenan was enthroned as Archbishop of Westminster. In
his enthronement address, he spoke of the bishop as a builder of bridges. He
stated: "There is already one Westminster Bridge, but I propose to build
several more. They will be spiritual bridges but not the less durable on
that account. One of these bridges will span the Thames from Westminster to
Lambeth, where a dear friend resides."

That "dear friend", Archbishop Michael Ramsey, was a bridge-builder himself.
When he travelled to Rome in March 1966, Pope Paul VI told him he was
rebuilding a bridge which for centuries had lain fallen between the Church
of Rome and the Church of Canterbury: "a bridge of respect, of esteem and of
charity." Paul VI characterised that bridge as yet unstable and "still under
construction". In the intervening years it has grown much more stable. While
it is still very much under construction, it has carried me here today
without a wobble.

Here in this country you now have a tunnel, a "chunnel", that links you to
the continent. This is good and convenient. But in my opinion it doesn't
hold up as a good ecumenical metaphor for your forthcoming ministry. I don't
know what a spiritual chunnel would look like, and besides, we don't want to
meet in the dark; it's better to keep building bridges, in the light. I
imagine that three types of bridge-building will shape your own ministry:
the bridge across the separation of the ages, which links us to our ancient
common traditions and gives us our bearings; the bridges of unity, both
within the Anglican Communion and between the Anglican Communion and your
ecumenical dialogue partners; and bridges between the Christian faith and
present-day cultures, our contemporary world with its joys and hopes, its
grief and anguish.

The first of these bridges, the one linking us to our common spiritual
foundations, is evoked by the name of the Club which is so graciously
hosting us this evening. The Nikaean Club was founded in 1926, following the
1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. I was grateful to learn that
the club is not named after a famous running shoe, but after the first
universal council of the Early Church, which condensed in a few solemn words
the essence of our Christian beliefs. Your Grace, I know you have studied,
taught and even written books on the early church. You know this tradition
well and love it deeply. This ancient common heritage - the Scriptures, the
early Councils, the writings of the Church Fathers - this is the foundation
that links the Anglican Communion to your ecumenical partners, each in a
different way. With the Catholic Church, those common traditions include not
only the Scriptures and foundational doctrines of the first Councils, but
shared spiritual and liturgical traditions, the monastic life, the role of
the bishop as a guardian of unity, and much more. Together with our
ecumenical partners, we know that this ancient heritage is not something
that belongs in your British Museum. It is not dry bones, but something ever
enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Your Grace, I trust you will have many
opportunities to show it to be a continuing source of life and light for
your people and for society in its struggles.

In terms of building bridges for the sake of unity, I would like to mention
the fine Statement issued by you and Cardinal Cormac a week ago today on the
crisis involving Iraq. Reading it, I could not help but think that the
spiritual bridge between Westminster and Lambeth was standing strong as
ever, giving witness to the Lord's desire that his disciples be reconcilers
and peacemakers. With a clear and united voice, you have said what needs to
be said; not minimising the danger of the present moment, but counselling
that we have not yet exhausted all peaceful means to resolve this situation.

When the Lord prayed that his disciples would be one, it was "so that the
world might believe." The Christian churches have been walking the road of
dialogue, and must continue on this road; but a bridge in constant need of
attention is the one which takes us from dialogue to common mission and
back. Our world would greatly benefit from our common witness and joint
mission on many fronts: seeking together to be instruments of peace and
justice, through means which themselves are peaceful and just; jointly
serving the Gospel by defending the sanctity of life and the dignity of the
human person; safeguarding the integrity of creation; encouraging the values
which give rise to healthy and stable relationships within families and
communities; promoting constructive dialogue between differing religions and
cultures; and creatively fostering an ecumenism of life, so that our
ecclesial lives better reflect the degree of faith that we presently share.
I join with all of your ecumenical partners here this evening in saying that
we greatly look forward to working with you in furthering our common witness
and mission.

Finally, regarding the challenge of bridging the gap between the Gospels and
present-day culture, one could say much, but I will only say this: you are a
theologian with keen perception in reading the signs of the times; a scholar
with an ear bent to the ground; a poet, with a deep sensitivity to language.
All of these talents will be well put to use, for the task at hand is not
simply to build bridges but - by the grace of God - to become a bridge, so
that talk about God, about a boundless mercy, about the crucified and risen
Lord, and the hope and treasure we carry within us, spans the distance
between the Gospels and the farthest reaches of our contemporary world.

Your Grace, when your nomination was announced, you observed that during the
months and weeks leading up to it, you had undergone the curious experience
of having everything about you discussed publicly, and "opinions you didn't
know you held expounded on your behalf." Your Grace, beware! I cite from my
own experience: it is not going to get better! So now, on behalf of all of
us, I wish you this: Amidst whatever turmoil surrounds you, may you, your
wife and family always know the Lord's consolation, the Spirit's joy. May
the deep roots of the Gospels and the ancient common traditions ever
strengthen, inspire and guide you. May the glory of the Lord be daily
revealed to you, making of your ministry a bridge so that others may know
that glory too.

It is now my pleasure to offer a toast to the Nikaean Club and its members -
of course not excluding the Archbishop in this toast! With heartfelt thanks
for this wonderful evening and your gracious hospitality, with gratitude for
your work in assisting the Archbishop of Canterbury, by providing a context
which brings together meaningful conversation and celebration, let us now
stand and join in a toast to the Nikaean Club and its members.


For details about the Enthronement of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury,
the Most Revd Rowan D Williams, visit

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