Release of landmark ecumenical statement on Virgin Mary

Division over half a millenium, between Roman Catholics and Anglicans over the Virgin Mary has potentially ended with a historic agreement that she was Christ's foremost disciple and a model for all Christians, though not a saviour.

The Age reports that both churches released a statement early today Australian time that they hope will overcome the main theological objections to a united Western church.

The joint statement, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, addresses four main issues: the Catholic doctrines of Mary's Immaculate Conception (that she was born free of sin) and bodily assumption (that when Mary died, her body and soul were taken into heaven) - both of which most Anglicans reject - the authority of the Pope in making them dogma, and how Mary should be honoured.

The document says Mary is Christ's foremost disciple, the mother of God incarnate in Jesus, a model of holiness, faith and obedience who points people to Christ. But Jesus Christ is sole redeemer and saviour. It says the disputed doctrines are "consonant with Scripture and the ancient common traditions", but does not commit Anglicans to them.

The document was to be launched in Seattle by Australia's Anglican Primate, Perth Archbishop Peter Carnley, and Catholic Archbishop of Seattle Alexander Brunett as co-chairmen of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission.

"It's a hugely important document," Dr Carnley said.

The statement, yet to be formally adopted by either church, draws on Scripture and ancient tradition, seeks a language that reflects what the churches have in common but transcends the past controversies.

Dr Charles Sherlock, the Melbourne Anglican theologian who was one of the statement's four main creators, said it was triple achievement: it was a full agreement, it tackled the thorny issue of the Pope's authority for Anglicans, but produced an imaginative yet scholarly interpretation of the Bible.

A Melbourne Catholic member of the 28-member international commission, Fr Peter Cross, said the most important aspect was the very careful re-examination of Mary in the Bible. "That's a massive advance because some Anglicans read the Scripture as if Mary isn't there, while Catholics see Mary in many places."

Almost 500 years of feuding over Mary ends (The Age 17/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Seattle Statement reflects Mary's call to unity in Christ (Archdiocese of Seattle)
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
The Anglican Communion - Ecumenical Affairs and Studies

Ecumenical Commission resolves to get around entrenched positions on Mary (CathNews 5/4/04)
Australian Primate to co-chair Anglican Roman Catholic dialogue (CathNews 11/12/03)

Official: Mary not a saviour (Sydney Morning Herald 17/5/05)
Catholics, Anglicans to present joint document on Mary (Vatican Information Service/EWTN 13/5/05)

17 May 2005