Keeping the faith

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Pope plays nice with female clergy member

Jennifer Squires
News Writer

In a move that could change the future of the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, Pope Benedict XVI greeted a female bishop for the first time ever during his visit to the United Kingdom last month.

On Sept. 18, press and church-goers alike watched as Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Westminster Abbey following a meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. The crowd followed the pontiff’s every move as he was ushered into the church to see if he would greet Dr. Reverend Jane Hedges, the canon steward of the Abbey, and a woman.

The suspense comes from the tense relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England with the appointment of women leaders. The Vatican has strongly opposed women bishops in the Church of England. The Pope even said at the General Synod this summer that appointments of woman leaders would create a “further obstacle” in efforts of communication between the two churches.

The tension rose this July when the Vatican listed attempted ordination of woman as one of the most serious crimes that Catholic clergymen could commit. It was placed  alongside sexually abusing children.

History was made as Pope Benedict XVI stepped into Westminster Abbey and warmly greeted Dr. Reverend Jane Hedges with a very public handshake. Hedges, a strong supporter of women bishops, was the Pope’s first public handshake with a clergywoman.

Matthew Dipple and Serena La Posta, both members of Catholic Christian Outreach (but not speaking on the group’s behalf), don’t believe this event will, or even should, change the future of either church, specifically the role of woman.

La Posta believes it will drive a further wedge into the unity of the two churches. The Church of England, which considers itself both Catholic and Reformed, is believed to be going against the Roman Catholic doctrine.

"There have been efforts for unity within the ecumenical sphere. The fact that women may now be ordained within the Church of England does seem to create ‘a further obstacle’ in the sense that unity between the two churches is more difficult.”

Dipple adds, “I don’t think it should affect the role of women in the Church that much. Women and men are both children of God, and are therefore equally integral to the Church. A handshake does not change this truth in the least.”

The internet has been exploding with people looking for a deeper meaning in this occasion. La Posta explains what this handshake boils down to for most in the Christian tradition.

“Ultimately, whether taking this step is God's will or not, I think that all Christians’ focus should be on Jesus and His example of love and service to all members of His Body, despite gender and despite their ability under the Church’s authority to become ordained or not.”

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