Project Canterbury

Lord Halifax:

A Tribute

by Sidney Dark

[Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing, 1934; 86 pp; hardbound]

Chapter Four

In December, 1889, for the sake of his eldest son’s health, Lord Halifax went with his family to Madeira, and there he met for the first time the Abbe Portal, a member of the Society of S. Vincent de Paul. He and Lord Halifax were at once mutually attracted. The Abbe, who died in 1926 at the age of seventy, was a broad-browed, full-lipped man with a strong chin and a singularly winning expression. Lord Halifax found that the Abbe was entirely ignorant of the character and formularies of the English Church, which he had regarded merely as one of the many Protestant societies; and the Abbe was both surprised and interested to learn from Lord Halifax the many similarities between the Holy Communion Service of the Church of England and the Latin Mass. It is to be presumed that he had not been a very close student of Bossuet.

These daily conversations went on until the summer, and so attracted were the English peer and the French priest to each other that they contrived to meet again in the spring of 1982 at Cahors. This time they began seriously to discuss the question of the validity of English Orders, and, at the urging of the Abbe, Lord Halifax prepared a memorandum on the subject, for submission to the authorities on the roman Catholic Church. Various circumstances prevented the completion of the Memorandum, and in 1894 the Abbe Portal himself published a treatise on the English Ordinal. This pamphlet aroused a considerable amount of interest, both in England and on the Continent, and was the object of heated criticism and denunciation by English Roman Catholics, by whom the Abbe was constantly pilloried until his death.

By far the most important result of the publication of the pamphlet was a formal declaration by the Abbe Duchesne, the famous French historian, that he was convinced of the validity of English Orders. Duchesne was a far more important person than Portal, and his declaration had a considerable effect in Rome.

Shortly afterwards, the Abbe Portal came to England to see Anglo-Catholicism in action. He was taken by Lord Halifax to various London churches, to the convents at East Grinstead and Clewer, and to Oxford and Cambridge. He met Father Russell and Dr. Lacey. He stayed with Bishop Creighton at Peterborough, and was received by both the Archbishop of Canterbury (Benson) and the Archbishop of York (Maclagan). It was unfortunate that, owning to a misunderstanding, the Abbe was not received by Cardinal Vaughan. On his return to France, the Abbe received a letter from Cardinal Rampolla, the then Secretary of State, telling him that the Holy Father wished him to come to Rome. The obscure AbbÈ had become something of a personage.

In Rome the AbbÈ had audiences with Cardinal Rampolla and the Pope. Both were interested and showed him the greatest possible kindness, and he was permitted to urge His Holiness to write a private letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, inviting them to collaborate with him to bring about the reunion of the Churches. The Pope, apparently, was more than half willing to take this bold and novel step, which might have entirely changed the history of the past forty years. He questioned the AbbÈ closely about what he had seen in England, and at the close of the conversation, he said how gladly he would sing Nunc Dimittis if he could bring England back into communion with Rome. In a second interview, the Pope told the AbbÈ that he had decided that the proposed letter could not be written; but he had read the AbbÈ’s pamphlet, and had instructed the AbbÈ Duchesne to prepare for him a Memorandum on the question of English Orders.

The AbbÈ Portal went straight from Rome to England, and was taken, without delay, by Lord Halifax to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was by no means encouraging. Dr. Benson was a High Churchman, with strong anti-Roman prejudices, and Lord Halifax always held that he was partly responsible for the failure of the attempt to obtain the recognition of English Orders of Rome.

The English Roman Catholics were determined that there should be no such recognition, and even in these early days Cardinal Vaughan was busy organizing English Roman Catholic opposition, writing with familiar bitterness of the English Church, and resenting the interference of French theologians. The Archbishop’s hesitation was strengthened, though it would be unfair to say entirely caused, by the Cardinal’s uncompromising statements.

Lord Halifax had a passion for drawing up memoranda and statements of facts, and he submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury a recapitulation of what had happened in Rome, with an earnest letter that he should write him a private letter which he himself could take to the Pope. But the Archbishop, while fully acknowledging the spirit of charity shown in the letter from Cardinal Rampolla which the Abbe Portal had shown him, was reluctant to be personally concerned in any way with proceedings which he disapproved, and from which he was convinced no good could come. But, after constant urging, Lord Halifax at last received a colourless communication to carry in his pocket when he went to Rome.

In the summer of 1894, the Archbishop of Dublin had consecrated a Bishop for the Protestant mission in Spain, which, by the way, still exists and is still more or less subsidized by the Irish Church. This intrusion was, and is deeply resented by the Catholic-minded members of the English Church, and their indignation was expressed in a letter addressed to the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo by Lord Halifax as Chairman of the English Church Union. The text of the letter was published, and it brought from Cardinal Vaughan a letter, also published in England, to his brother of Toledo in which he said that Lord Halifax was not a Catholic but merely ‘the chief of one of the sects of the English Church.’ One passage in this letter was mistranslated and ascribed the most unworthy of motives to Lord Halifax in his work for reunion. It is pleasant to know that the Cardinal deeply regretted the pain that this caused. In a very charming letter he assured Lord Halifax of his appreciation of his high motives, and added: ‘I will continue constantly to recommend you and yours to our Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.’

The point of importance is that at this time, with Cardinal Rampolla as Secretary of State, and with the high authority of Duchesne on the Anglican side, this bias of the Vatican was in striking contrast to the bias of the Roman Catholic authorities in England, where bishops and priests were emphatic that the Church of England was essentially a Protestant body, and there was a wide feeling among the Roman Catholic laity that any public gesture of friendship from the Pope, however guarded it might be, would assuredly inflame anti-Catholic prejudice in the country. Lord Halifax was, however, in constant communication with Wilfrid Ward, who was extremely sympathetic and who apparently did all that was possible to modify Cardinal Vaughan’s acerbity. The English Archbishops remained aloof, the Archbishop of Canterbury declaring that there was no proof whatever that Cardinal Vaughan was not expressing the mind of the Vatican.

In the early days of 1895, Cardinal Vaughan and Abbot (afterwards Cardinal) Gasquet were in Rome, and in February Lord Halifax made an important speech in Bristol in which, urging the cause of reunion, he declared that Canterbury was the daughter of Rome and that there would be no great difficulty in reconciling the decisions of the Council of Trent with the Anglican Articles. This speech brought Lord Halifax a remarkable number of letters of approval from, among others, the Bishops of Chester (Jayne), Gloucester and Bristol (Ellicott), and Lincoln (King), and from several members of the Scottish episcopate, and a very warm letter from the Abbe Duchesne.

Lord Halifax himself went to Rome in March and found Vaughan and Gasquet busy opposing al that he and Portal were attempting. They were, indeed, impressing on the Pope that the real reason for the action of Lord Halifax and his friends was to prevent wavers from going to Rome. Lord Halifax was, however, received by the Pope, to whom he presented the inevitable Memorandum, and was permitted to refer at some length to his efforts for reunion, and during his stay, despite the public hostility between the two men, Cardinal Vaughan was extremely kindly and courteous, inviting Lord Halifax to be present at his Mass in the crypt of S. Peter’s.

He and Lady Halifax and their daughter were received in private audience by the Pope before leaving Rome and were given the Papal Blessing. Immediately after they left, the Pope published his letter Ad Anglos. It was in substance the letter that Lord Halifax had hoped would be addressed privately to the two English Archbishops. That it was addressed to the whole English people, and not to them, was due entirely to the influence of Cardinal Vaughan. The letter was little more than a call to prayer for healing the wounds in the Body of Christ.

An article in The Times probably represented the opinion of the great majority of the English people. The writer said that ‘reunion with Rome is at present a mere dream, and Leo XIII has done his best to make this perfectly plain.’ The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a Pastoral in which he commented on the Pope’s letter, making a curious reference to ‘methods of worship and rewards of worship repugnant to Teutonic Christianity,’ a phrase which seems to suggest that Dr. Benson anticipated the Nazis in desiring that northern Europe should have its own religion. And Cardinal Vaughan, on his side, made a speech in which he insisted that the Pope governed the Church by divine right and that there could be no question o the extent of his authority.

On the other hand, the Archbishop of York, in a service in Norwich Cathedral, said that the Pope’s letter breathed ‘from first to last a spirit of fatherly love,’ and in an address to the Church Congress, Lord Halifax insisted that what was wanted was no compromise but explanations on both sides. ‘We have much to gain from Rome,’ he said, ‘but Rome has also much to gain from us.’

Lord Halifax was always willing to grant to the Pope a great deal more than most Anglo-Catholics would agree could be granted, and at this time, and in view of what was happening, there was a considerable discussion as to what exactly Lord Halifax meant when he said that he regarded the Pope ‘as head of the visible Church by a distinct act our of Lord Jesus Christ.’ Cardinal Vaughan asked him: ‘Do you mean a Primacy of Honour only, or a Primacy of Jurisdiction? If it be a Primacy of Jurisdiction that is what we mean by the term Papal Supremacy.’

To serve the good cause, the AbbÈ Portal founded the Revue Anglo-Romaine with the object of interesting foreign theologians in the question of the English Church, and the publication was approved and supported by such eminent Romans as von Hugel and Wilfrid Ward. The Revue had considerable influence. In 1896, when Lord Halifax was in Paris, he was received with sympathy and understanding by distinguished clerics and well-known laymen. He had long talks with, among other people, Mgr. Gaspari, afterwards Cardinal and Secretary of State, who at that time was entirely in accord with the opinions of Duchesne. He declared that he himself had do doubt whatever of the validity of Barlow’s consecration which is the key event in the continuance of the succession in the reign of Elizabeth.

During this visit to Paris, Lord Halifax made several speeches, explaining the significance of the Oxford Movement and the character of the English Church.

In the spring of 1896, the Pope appointed a Commission to inquire into the validity of English Orders. Gasquet and other ecclesiastics hostile to English claims were members of the Commission, but so were Duchesne and Gasparri and two other priests whose writing had shown that they were sympathetic. It was felt that the Commission should have exact information concerning the events of the sixteenth century, and at the suggestion of Cardinal Gasparri, Father Puller of the Society of S. John the Evangelist, and the Rev. T.A. Lacey, the learned co-author of the Dissertatio apologetica de Hierarchia Anglicana, went to Rome. They afterwards published a detailed account of what had happened during their visit. The sympathetic attitude of the Vatican is suggested in a letter written to Lord Halifax by Sir Walter Phillimore (afterwards Lord Phillimore), who was in Rome in the spring of 1896, and who had a long interview with Cardinal Rampolla. He spoke, wrote Lord Phillimore, of the Pope’s great fairness towards us, of the advances he had made and was making, and of the studious impartiality of the Commission which he had appointed on Anglican Orders and their validity.

The Commission finished its sittings in May. The case against Anglican claims had been largely in the hands of Dom Gasquet, who complained that the Frenchmen, Duchesne and Portal, had made themselves the spokesmen of Anglicanism with the smallest direct knowledge of the situation. Gladstone subsequently drew up a memorandum – he was then eighty-six years old – which was sent by Lord Halifax to Cardinal Rampolla, and it was felt in Rome, particularly by Portal, Lacey and Puller, that such a statement, coming from an English Churchman of unique authority and position, must have considerable influence on the Holy Father. One of the cardinals is reported to have said that never since the days of Henry VIII was there a greater chance of the reunion of the Church of England with the great Church of the West. But the chance was lost.

The translation of the Pope’s Encyclical, Satis Cognitum, was published in The Times of June 30th, with an explanatory introduction by Cardinal Vaughan, but the encyclical did not deal directly with the validity of English Orders, and kindly as was its tone, The Times insisted that –

‘It made it clear that in no singular particular either of doctrine or of discipline will the claims of the Papal See be relaxed to meet the aspirations for what is known as reunion among a section of those bred up in the faith of the Church of England.’

There were unquestionable in the Encyclical certain concessions, most of which were fully appreciated by Halifax and Lacey, but ignored, probably because they were not understood, by the English Press.

They were concessions, indeed, the importance of which only a trained theologian could appreciate, but which justified the trained theologian in believing that the door had not been entirely bolted and barred.

In July the AbbÈ Portal, at the invitation of Lord Halifax, addressed a meeting in London at which the significance of the Encyclical was very candidly discussed. ‘England in union with Rome would mean the conquest of the world to the faith of Christ,’ said the AbbÈ, and he added that one thing at least had been achieved. roman Catholics on the Continent no longer regarded the Church of England as indistinguishable from the Lutherans and the Calvinists. This speech particularly enraged the Roman authority in England. The AbbÈ was sharply censured and there was a suggestion that the Revue Anglo-Romaine should cease publication.

The Papal Bull, Apostolicae Curae, in which Anglican Orders were definitely declared null and void, was published in September. It was, as Lord Halifax said, a great victory for Cardinal Vaughan, and was received with unqualified satisfaction by the Protestant party in the Church of England, whose opinions were again expressed in a remarkable leading article in The Times. The writer declared:

‘We are thankful to the Pope for having so clearly defined his own position and that of the Anglican Church in language which no party in that Church could ever again pretend to misunderstand or misinterpret.’

Lord Halifax was bitterly disappointed, and he was fully justified after his conversations in Rome, both with the Pope and with the Cardinal Secretary of State, in believing that the Pope, then a man eighty-six years old, had been persuaded by the pressure of English roman Catholic opinion to come to a decision against his original predilections. The learned Bishop Collins of Gibraltar showed by an examination of the Latin text of the Bull that it bore distinct marks of having been originally composed in English. ‘This is the end of a beautiful dream,’ wrote the AbbÈ Portal. To Cardinal Vaughan, the whole thing, as Lord Halifax has said, was a mischievous dream. But Lord Halifax also felt that the Cardinal’s persistent opposition was made the more effective by Archbishop Benson’s hesitations. Mr. Gladstone commented on the publication of the Bull:

‘The Pope’s good intentions have broken down, and the true spirit of the Curia has triumphed over them.’

Lord Halifax was disappointed, but he was not dismayed. He was defeated, but he was convinced that the defeat was only temporary. In his book, Leo XIII and Anglican Orders, which was published in 1912, sixteen years after the issue of the Bull, Apostolicae Curae, he said that he was convinced that the Bull had actually strengthened the position of the Church of England since it had shown that the Church could only be defended on Catholic principles. It had caused Christian and Orthodox theologians to consider the character of the Church and had brought nearer, and indeed made possible, the reunion of Anglicans with the Orthodox Christians of the East.

The last chapter of this book is really a masterly analysis of the relations between Rome and Canterbury, perhaps the most effective thing that Lord Halifax ever wrote, proving the depth of his knowledge and the intense fervour of his faith. He had striven to promote peace within the Church; his success was partial, indeed to the outsider there may have seemed to have been no success at all. And yet he was comforted by the assurance, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.’

It will be convenient to go forward to the renewed negotiations, many years later. After the publication of the Papal Bull of 1896, with its specific declaration that Anglican Orders were invalid, it seemed to the great majority, both of Anglicans and Roman Catholic, that it was hopeless again to approach the subject of reunion, at least for generations. Indeed, it would be true to say that there were only two men in both communions with a faith ardent enough to enable them to believe that the door, that had been bolted and barred at Rome, might shortly be reopened. The AbbÈ Portal and Lord Halifax possessed, indeed a faith that would remove mountains. They both believed that the reconciliation of the provinces of Canterbury and York with the Church of the West was vital for the well-being and possibly for the continued existence of Christendom. The subject was never out of their minds or of their prayers, and they waited, with untroubled patience, for another opportunity for negotiation and approach.

The war brought many priests of the Church of England into cordial touch with Roman Catholics in France and Belgium, and the heroic and saintly Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines, had attracted the unqualified admiration of the English people. Lord Halifax, as I have insisted, had a very astute mind which would certainly have made him a highly successful diplomat had he chosen to serve the State rather than to serve the Church. He never failed to appreciate when circumstances were favourable for the project that he had always at heart. And in the atmosphere created by the war alliances, he saw in Cardinal Mercier the most likely intermediary between Canterbury and Rome. The Cardinal was liberal, saintly, kindly, and courageous, and between him and Lord Halifax, almost from their first meeting, there began a touching and affectionate friendship.

The year 1921 seemed a propitious time to try again. In 1920 the Anglican bishops, assembled at the Lambeth Conference, had issued the famous Appeal to All Christian People to embark on what they called ‘an adventure of goodwill and still more of faith,’ with the object of uniting all Christians in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church. It was suggested that the basis of unity should be what has come to be known as ;the Lambeth Quadrilateral’: the acceptance of Holy Scripture as ‘the rule and ultimate standard of faith’; the acceptance of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds; the belief that Baptism and Holy Communion are ‘definitely instituted sacrament,’ and that the Ministry of the Church posses ‘the commission of Christ.’

It is probable that in discussing reunion in 1920, the majority of the Anglican bishops had in mind the winning back of the schismatic Protestant Nonconformists. They were certainly not forgetful of the Eastern Orthodox, between whom and the Church of England relations had been growing more and more cordial. But it was clearly realized and candidly admitted at Lambeth that the reunion of Christendom must remain an empty phrase unless it brought England back into communion with the Church of Rome. It was indeed specifically recorded that while there appeared to be insuperable difficulties in the path towards such unity, the war had led ‘to a greatly increased knowledge and understanding of each other’s positions.’ Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzibar, was one of the outstanding figures of the Conference. He vigorously attacked the Bishop of Durham’s defence of a merely national Church and as vigorously upheld the doctrine of the Apostolic succession. He said that he longed for a Catholic Church to which all races might belong. ‘His vision was of One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church co-extensive with Christendom.’ To Frank Weston the realization of this ideal meant primarily reunion with Rome, and it seemed to Lord Halifax and the Abbe Portal that the issue of the Appeal to All Christian People was a God-sent opportunity for reopening on new lines the negotiations that had come to an end twenty-four years before.

In 1896, His Holiness the Pope had appointed a Commission to inquire into one point and one point only, the claim of the Anglican bishops and priests to the Apostolic succession. Lord Halifax did not want to reopen the controversy. He wanted something wider and less specific, and in 1921 he, with the AbbÈ Portal, approached Cardinal Mercier with a request that His Eminence would ‘receive some of his friends, members of the Anglican Communion who, like himself, were anxious to labour for a rapprochement of the Anglican Church to the Roman Catholic Church.’ And the Cardinal gladly assented to the request.

So far as the first meeting at Malines is concerned, there was nothing in the nature of official negotiation. The meeting was am meeting of friends, eager to understand each other.

Before considering the Malines Conversations and their importance, it is well to have a clear idea of the attitude of Lord Halifax himself towards the Roman Church and its claims. He was fervently loyal to the Church of his birth. I should doubt whether secession to Rome ever occurred to him in all his long life, but it has to be realizes that he went much farther in recognizing Roman claims than the majority of Anglo-Catholics – very much farther than Pusey, very much farther than Gore. In a Memorandum which he wrote on the Lambeth Appeal, he described the Church of England as ‘a daughter of the Church of Rome, having received her later Christianity from Gregory the Great and S. Augustine,’ and it was, he asserted, the duty of the Church of England ‘to endeavour to renew relations which ought to unite her with the Church which is not only her own ancient mother, but the one Apostolic Church of the West.’ That was his considered conviction.

The Roman Church was ‘the one Apostolic Church of the West.’ In the Memorandum, he went on to suggest – and this I know personally was often in his mind in later years – that in regard to all dogmatic statements on questions of faith ‘it is necessary to bear in mind, in view of the infinite nature of the matters treated and the limited capacity of the human mind, that all theological statements, even on the most vital and important matters, are necessarily only approximate statements and not complete expositions of the truth.

Lord Halifax always believed that Christian men were separated much more by words than by vital differences of faith and belief. He once told me that he was convinced that if he and Sir William Joynson Hicks (as he then was) and Sir Thomas Inskip could have a long, quiet talk they would find that they really agreed concerning the nature of the Holy Eucharist. I was told afterwards that he had drawn up one of the memoranda that he loved, and that, with his persuasiveness, he had almost induced these two Protestant leaders to sign it with him.

Referring to the Malines Conversations in a speech which he delivered to the House of Bishops of the Convocation of Canterbury on February 6, 1924, Archbishop Davidson said:

‘Some two years ago it came about almost fortuitously that a little gathering was arranged at which a few leading Roman Catholic Churchman should meet a few Anglicans for conversation about the differences which separate our Churches. This was to take place under the hospitable roof of the venerable Cardinal Mercier at Malines. Though I had no responsibility with regard to this, it is doubtless the fact that had I desired to do so I might, so to speak, have stamped out the very suggestion of such a conversation taking place, however informally; or at least I might have refused to know anything whatever about it.'

The first meeting at Malines took place on December 6, 1921. Lord Halifax was accompanied by the late Dr. Armitage Robinson, then Dean of Wells, and by Dr. Frere, then the Superior of the Community of the Resurrection and now Bishop of Truro. With the Cardinal were Mgr. Van Roey, who succeeded him as Archbishop, and the AbbÈ Portal. The Lambeth Appeal was carefully considered clause by clause, and at the close, according to the report, ‘one of the Anglicans,’ who was doubtless Lord Halifax, said that he thought the meetings had no parallel in the last two hundred years, that they had been seeking not the conversion or submission of individuals, but the possibility of an understanding between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.

Between the first meeting and the second in March, 1923, Lord Halifax suggested to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he and the Archbishop of York should nominate the delegates and suggest the outline of discussion. This the Archbishop was not able to do, but he went so far, as a proof of his approval, as to have ‘official cognizance of the arrangements’ provided that ‘a corresponding cognizance was given by the Vatican.’ This was a very important concession, and there is no doubt the Vatican did give the ‘corresponding cognizance.’ When the Conversations had come to an end, the Archbishop was emphatic in insisting that he had a considerable measure of personal responsibility for them, and that he had been satisfied that the meetings at Malines were both sanctioned and approved by the authorities at Rome.

The same delegates attended the 1923 conference as were present in 1921. The discussions were concerned first with the position of the Anglican Church as a world-wide communion; then with the point as to whether the jurisdiction of a bishop is derived from the Pope or directly from our Lord; and lastly with the quality of the ministry of a reunited Church. Further topics discussed were the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, communion in both kinds, and the permission of the clergy to marry. The report says:

‘On the three points mentioned the Roman Catholics replied that precedents exist which partially are in agreements with the desires expressed by the Anglican; but that such precedents come from the Uniat Churches of the East. There is no absolute bar to the granting of these desires, at any rate in part. But the Roman Catholic representatives are not in a positions to anticipate what judgement the Holy See would pass on the motives that prompt these requests.’

Between this spring meeting and the third meeting in the following November, the Archbishop of Canterbury recommended that, in view of a possible discussion of Papal authority, the Anglican delegation should be strengthened by the addition of theologians who had particularly studied the subject, and at his suggestion Dr. Gore and Dr. Kidd, the Warden of Keble College, Oxford, joined Lord Halifax, Dean Armitage Robinson, and Dr. Frere. The five men were received at Lambeth, and the Archbishop made very clear the line that he expected them to take. It cannot be said that the inclusion of Dr. Gore was fortunate selection. He and Lord Halifax had had many disagreements. He was always definitely anti-papal, and the Romans at Malines found him difficult. On the other hand, Dr. Kidd was extremely helpful.

At the November meetings the Roman Catholics had two additional representatives in Mgr. Battifol, the famous French theologian and M. Hemmer, another French ecclesiastic.

The Anglican presented a considered paper on the position of S. Peter among the other Apostles as evidenced in the New Testament. This memorandum, again obviously from the pen of Lord Halifax, admits that the New Testament justifies the claim that S. Peter was ‘chosen and marked out by our Lord to exercise a primacy of leadership among the Twelve.’ It goes on to add significantly:

‘In accordance with what I believe to be a principle of the Ecclesia Anglicana, I cannot accept as final an interpretation of Scripture which takes no account of the interpretations placed upon it by the early Fathers, or of the providential guidance of the Church as revealed in history.’

The Anglican generally could not admit the universal jurisdiction claimed either for S. Peter or the Roman Church, but only a ‘spiritual leadership and general solicitude for the well-being of the Church as a whole.’ This was not a mere Primacy of Honour but a Primacy of Responsibility.

The fourth meeting took place on May 19, 1925, the same ten men being present. The discussions centred round the relation between the Pope and other bishops of the Church Catholic. The wide divergences of opinion within the Church of England were then discussed, and there was a considerable difference concerning what is fundamental and what is not fundamental. And so the Conversations came to an end. The delegates wrote in their report:

‘They are convinced that it is on the lines of such friendly conversations that true progress is to be made in achieving the reunion of Christendom, which must be so near to all Christian hearts; and they would express the earnest hope that similar conferences may be continued in the future, in order that the work begun with Cardinal Mercier’s blessing and under his auspices may be still further carried on, and by God’s blessing and in God’s time fulfil words so constantly on the Cardinal’s lips, Ut unum sint.’

In a letter addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury on October 15, 1925, Cardinal Mercier admitted:

‘In the course of our meetings, as the line of demarcation between the subjects on which agreement already exists or has been reached and the subjects in regard to which differences still exist becomes more distinct, the difficulties in the way of final success loom larger on the horizon and the reasons for hoping seem less convincing.’

But the Cardinal found comfort in recalling the words of the Dean of Wells:

I seem to hear the revered Dean of Wells addressing us in such moving words, at the close of our first meeting: For four centuries, Anglican and Roman Catholics were only aware of their antagonisms and divisions; they have met for the first time in order better to understand each other, to remove the misunderstandings which estrange them, to draw nearer to the goal so wished for by every one – reunion.

‘When the revered Dean uttered those moving words, he did not merely address our small limited group but the mass of believers which we knew were behind us and whose perseverant faith in Christ and in the Church is the object of our constant care and anxiety.’

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