Original: From the Independent (U.K.) [boldface mine]:
The Pope is leading an unprecedented drive by the Roman Catholic Church to prevent the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican Communion ahead of the once-a-decade gathering of its 800 bishops, which begins today, The Independent has learnt.
In his first public comments on the Lambeth Conference, Pope Benedict XVI has warned Anglican leaders that they must find a "mature" and faithful way of avoiding "schism". On top of this the Pope has:
* Sent three cardinals to the conference in Canterbury, including one of his top aides from the Vatican, to act as personal intermediaries between the two churches;
* Let it be known that he does not support the defection of conservative Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church;
* Given behind-the-scenes support to the Archbishop of Canterbury's attempts to hold together the conservative and liberal wings of the Anglican Church, including at face-to-face meetings in Rome.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, faces a near-impossible task as he prepares to preside over the conference, at which bishops from around the world are gathering today for prayer and reflection. The Archbishop is hoping to keep the conference focused on substantial issues facing the church and the world, but it is overshadowed by disputes over women bishops and homosexuality. . .
Roman Catholic insiders say there are two motives behind the Pope's concerns. A decision has been taken within the Roman Catholic hierarchy that it is in its interests for the Anglican Church to maintain unity. Despite speculation about a group of conservative bishops breaking away to the Roman church, senior Catholics say such a move would be "premature", and that they are not encouraging defections. The other reason is that the Pope has developed a strong personal relationship with Dr Williams. "They get on, they are both theologians," a source said last night.
The Pope, who arrived in Australia on Sunday for the World Youth Day gathering of young Catholics and others, publicly expressed support for Dr Williams while remaining careful not to "intervene". The Pope added that the Church needed to avoid "further schism and fractures". . .
Read it all.
Update: Thanks to Dr. Mabuse for the heads up on the publication of the pope's interview and Stand Firm for posting a link to this, primary source material:
SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Vatican transcription of Benedict XVI's comments to journalists aboard the papal plane en route to Sydney. . .
Q: While you are in Australia, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, which is very widespread also in Australia, are meeting in Lambeth Palace. One of the main arguments will be possible ways to consolidate communion between the provinces and to find a way to ensure that one or more provinces do not take initiatives that others see as contrary to the Gospel and tradition.
Is there the risk of a fragmentation of the Anglican Communion and the possibility that some will ask to be received into the Catholic Church. What is your hope for the Lambeth Conference and for the archbishop of Canterbury?
Benedict XVI: My essential contribution can only be prayer and with my prayer I will be very close to the Anglican bishops meeting in Lambeth Conference.
We cannot and must not intervene immediately in their discussions, we respect their own responsibility and it is our hope that schisms and new breaks can be avoided, and that a responsible solution will be found given our times, but also in fidelity to the Gospel. These two things must go together.
Christianity is always contemporary and lives in this world, in a certain time, but it renders present in this time the message of Jesus Christ and, hence, offers a true contribution for this time only be being faithful -- in a mature and creative way -- but faithful to the message of Christ.
We hope, and I personally pray, that together they will find the way of the Gospel for our day. This is my wish for the archbishop of Canterbury: That the Anglican Communion in communion with the Gospel of Christ and the Word of the Lord will find the answers to the present challenges.
And from Damien Thompson at the Telegraph (U.K.):
More evidence this morning that Catholic liberals are panicking at the prospect of an influx of conservative Anglicans. They want us to believe that Pope Benedict is "shunning defectors" in an attempt to shore up the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not true.
On his way to Australia, the Pope was asked about the Lambeth Conference. He replied that the Catholic Church should not intervene in its deliberations and that he was praying that there would be no more schisms and fractures. Lambeth Palace and its liberal Catholic allies have now spun this into a papal message of support for Rowan Williams in his attempts to persuade Anglicans not to convert to Rome.
Liberals claim that Pope Benedict has "let it be known that he does not support the defection of conservative Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church". He has done no such thing.
The Pope is supporting moves by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to construct a model whereby a group of rebel conservative Anglicans, the Traditional Anglican Communion, can be received en masse and occupy their own structures inside the Roman Catholic Church. This model – which is being constructed in secret – could serve as a blueprint for mainstream Anglicans wanting to convert as a group.
To understand what is going on, it is important to grasp that Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's head of ecumenism who is attending Lambeth, is not a close adviser to the Pope. He and the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger have even clashed publicly in the past. Likewise, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who is also attending Lambeth, is not close to the Holy Father.
Always remember: it was Cardinal Ratzinger who sent a personal message of support to conservative Anglicans meeting in Dallas in 2003, thereby horrifying Kasper – who, as a professional ecumenist, probably is unsympathetic to Anglo-Catholics rocking the boat. But he, thank God, is soon to retire. . .
Read it all. And so Lambeth begins. (And I have to remember that not everything printed is true! I don't know how I forgot that here!)