Q — The 50th anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio, the second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism just passed. What is your assessment of ecumenical progress among Christians in the past 50 years? In particular, have Catholics and Anglicans moved any closer in their understanding of the Eucharist?

A — It would be impossible to chart in short compass the ecumenical progress that has taken place since Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism. The Catholic Church has entered into formal dialogue with all the mainline Christian traditions, both at the international level and often at the national level. Many issues that had been regarded as immensely controversial in respect of Christians in the Reformation traditions no longer seem so problematic. Many Christians have a much higher sacramental awareness than would have been the case before the Decree on Ecumenism, and this would be the case also with “justification,” our Blessed Lady, authority and ministry in the church, and so forth. The veteran Methodist ecumenical theologian, Geoffrey Wainwright (b. 1939) is a great exemplar of ecumenical progress and dialogue. In 2000 he wrote a little book with the title “Is the Reformation Over?” He charts the ecumenical progress that has been made over so many different questions/issues that his answer to the question is “Yes,” but a qualified “Yes.” Divisive issues have been overcome in Wainwright’s careful phrasing “much more than they were.” That is something to be thankful for. There is still a long way to go to overcome barriers and impediments to fuller communion, but so very much has been achieved by the grace of God.

When it comes to Anglican-Catholic dialogue on the Eucharist, many good things have occurred.

The first Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, set up by both Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, published an “Agreed Statement on the Eucharist” in 1971.That was a great milestone moving Anglicans and Catholics closer together on the Eucharist, especially on Eucharistic sacrifice and the real presence of Christ.

An examination of individual Anglican theologians writing about the Eucharist today would show enormous progress in Eucharistic understanding between Anglicans and Catholics.
Some of these developments are charted in my “Canterbury Cousins: The Eucharist in Contemporary Anglican Theology” (New York-Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007).