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 CNS Story:

AUSTRALIA-CANCELED Mar-6-2009 (470 words) xxxi

Vatican stops Catholic-Anglican confirmation proposed for Australia

By Anthony Barich
Catholic News Service

PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- The Vatican has stopped a joint Catholic-Anglican celebration of the sacrament of confirmation planned in the state of New South Wales, saying it would "send confusing messages."

The service, which was to be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral in Maitland May 31, stemmed from a covenant signed in April 2008 by Catholic Bishops Michael Malone of Maitland-Newcastle and David Walker of Broken Bay with Anglican Bishop Brian Farran of Newcastle.

The event, to be celebrated at Pentecost, was canceled at the request of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Under the 2008 covenant, the dioceses committed to a series of joint initiatives ranging from the sharing of church resources to an annual bishops' dialogue.

The Newcastle-based Herald newspaper reported Feb. 28 that parishes in the region had been encouraging church members to consider being confirmed on the day, although the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle had not yet begun publicizing the event to its parishes.

In a joint statement released Feb. 12, Bishop Malone and Bishop Farran said the Vatican had "expressed concern about a simultaneous celebration and the possibility of confusing messages being given to the people."

Bishop Malone, who represents the Catholic bishops of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on the NSW Ecumenical Council, also said in the statement that he believed that because a similar celebration had been held in England in 1989, a precedent had been established, and he apologized to those who would have been involved.

Bishop Farran said in the statement: "I am disappointed that this simple expression of a liturgical aspect of the Tri-Diocesan Covenant cannot be celebrated. I appreciate the difficulties faced by Bishop Malone and fully understand his situation."

An official at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments told Catholic News Service in Rome March 5, "It is absolutely true that we asked that this not take place because it could send confusing messages."

Because Catholics and Anglicans are committed to increasing cooperation and occasions of joint prayer, "this is one of those things that seemed like a good idea" but probably should have been thought out more carefully because it directly involves a sacrament, he said.

"Such a practice is not foreseen in our liturgical books," he said.

"The (Catholic) church works according to the principles of Roman law, and one of the consequences is that if a thing is not allowed, it is banned," while in most other Western legal traditions, "if something is not banned, it is allowed," the official added.

The fact that the Vatican does not explicitly allow such joint services effectively means they are not permitted, he said.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

END


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