Martin Warner

Dr Martin Warner has been Administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Canon of St Paul’s, Bishop of Whitby and, from 2012, Bishop of Chichester.

CHAIRMAN: We want to finish by looking to the future of the Catholic tradition in our Church, and its missionary impulse. Bishop Martin needs no introduction. When I arrived in the Diocese of Norwich, he was Administrator of The Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham. He has had various jobs since then – which proves that Norfolk is not the graveyard of ambition! If you do want to come to the Diocese of Norwich, you will be very welcome.


Bishop of Chichester

Norwich is the gateway to Heaven. There is absolutely no doubt about that! I am grateful to Bishop Graham for that introduction, but also for some of his other work recently – theological writing and publishing. As a result of that, I am emboldened today to come out of the closet and say: ‘Yes, I am an Anglo‑Papalist’. It has been very interesting listening today to so much about Catholicity.


I want to start by saying that I think the model for what I hope we understand Anglo-Papalism to be actually exists in and around this 1947 document. I want to look at that first. I then want to contrast the context in which the Report Catholicity was written with that of today. I want to look at some of the things present in the ecumenical life of the Church – the wider life – and why some of these give us hope for our expansive apostolic witness to Jesus Christ as we seek to proclaim the Gospel in our own age.

The Church Times on Friday 2 February 1951 had a lot of interesting things on the front page. There was a marvellous picture of the draft of the East Wall painting in St Mark’s Coventry, designed by Hans Feibusch. The new vicar of All Saints, Margaret Street, Kenneth Ross, had just been announced. Two thousand people had gone on pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. Queen Mary had visited Church House, Westminster.

But the really big thing being reported was that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Fisher, and Mrs Fisher, had returned from their visit to Australia and New Zealand. But get this. There was a reception. A huge audience filled Central Hall, Westminster, to greet them. Who was there? Not just the rank and file and everybody else, but the Prime Minister. We need to take that seriously. The Archbishop of York was there as well, rather simpering about being able to take the chair in the province of Canterbury; but he then introduced Archbishop Fisher, who said in response to the whole question about his experience over there:

‘We have no doctrine of our own. We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic creeds, and those creeds we hold without addition or diminution. We stand firm on that rock. We know how to bring to bear on our Christian devotion and creed all the resources of charity and reason and human understanding submitted to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So we have a freedom and embrace a faith which, in my belief, represents the Christian faith in a purer form than can be found in any other Church in Christendom.’

That is a pretty astonishing claim. I would not dare to say it. But he did add: ‘That is not a boast. It is a reminder to us of the immense treasure that is committed to our charge….’

It is an interesting reflection. He returns from an international visit, he is greeted by a huge gathering in Central Hall – and the Prime Minister thinks it is worth being there – and he delivers this speech just after the Report Catholicity had been written.

Seismic Shift in British Culture

Why do I think this is a useful and important starting place? Because it says something to us not only about the way in which some of our theological perceptions have moved on, but, more importantly, something about the huge shift in culture, and in our political place in society in Britain today.

Just to bring us up to date – and we may have varied views on this – I want to reflect on an article by Jeremy Paxman on the Church of England. He makes a variety of interesting observations, but this is one of the most interesting. He says that a comment from a lay person identifies the critical issue:

‘… past actions are not the point. “People are perfectly happy [says the lay person] to listen when you talk about the good works done by the Church. But their eyes glaze over when you mention God.” In the end, the Church of England’s problem is that not enough people believe in the one thing that makes it different from the secular world….’

There is our challenge. There is the difference. Paxman goes on to talk in interesting ways about how he has experienced this on his visits. It is an affectionate view of the Church of England. He does not set out to be our enemy; but, for all his nostalgia, his last word to us is basically: ‘Get with the programme, guys’.

Scripture, Tradition and Reason

I think he is mistaken in his understanding of Hooker and the three-legged stool: scripture, tradition and reason. For Paxman, ‘reason’ is that kind of post‑Renaissance reason – post‑Enlightenment reason – which will actually destroy everything that gets in the way of human progress and enable us to get with the programme. I think we have to be alert to that, and resistant to it. It is a very different situation from the one which, bravely and boldly, Archbishop Fisher described in terms of our aptitude under the Holy Spirit for reflecting on our inheritance of faith and the Catholicism we hold.

I would say today that fidelity to scripture and tradition is something we struggle to sustain. I think Paxman fails to understand that actually, for us, the seriousness of these other two legs is of vital importance. This is the seriousness of a church which is still a persecuted church. Recovering in our land the charism of what it means to be persecuted is an important thing – and thank God for those who live amongst us who come from that tradition. In Hove, we have huge numbers of Coptic Christians. Pope Tawadros came to visit us and reminded us that, if we are complacent about it, then that is their Coptic charism.

Role of the Papacy

One of the things from which I think we have benefited recently is the vitality and the attractiveness of the papacy of Pope Francis. His apostolic exultation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel – takes us to the heart of what it is we are about, which is transformative.

That is my springboard, if you like, into consideration of something that is important – I think central – to reflection on the Report Catholicity. At the end of the chapter on the post-Tridentine Papal Communion, the Report says this:

…signs have multiplied in recent years that whenever it can forget this sectarianism, and give a deliberate lead to all Christendom, outside as well as inside its own allegiance, on a matter of vital Christian interest, the Papacy can still command the attention and to a large extent secure the following of all Christians, and that it is the only Christian institution which can do so.

I think that is a bold claim for 1947, but also a prophetic one. As we look to the advance in dialogue which has taken place, as we look to the massive reform of the Roman Catholic Church occasioned through the Second Vatican Council, I think we can see that there are some serious movements here which enable us to think again about this perspective on the role of the Pope.

The Fullness of Christ

In his magisterial book The Catholic Church: Nature, Reality and Mission, Walter Kasper writes powerfully about the identity and nature of Catholicity. Interestingly, he starts by going to scripture. Where in scripture do we find something which begins to outline this quality? He says: ‘We do it in the sense of pleroma – the pleroma of Jesus Christ, the fullness of God in the Incarnate One’. What Andrew Davison was saying about participation seems to me an extension of the sense that Catholicity is about this kind of fullness. Kasper goes on to write about how we see today that Catholicity is actually dispersed as well amongst other churches:

…in other churches and ecclesial communities [there exist] manifold elements of sanctification and truth, elements that are not absent in the Catholic Church but which at times can be better developed in other churches. In this sense the other churches and ecclesial communities have, in different degrees and in different density, a share in the Church reality of the Catholic Church. The ecumenical dialogue as an exchange of gifts can…help the Catholic Church to a more perfect realization of its own catholicity.

Ratzinger’s view of Anglicans

A sort of practical example of how the sense of this participation, this experience of grace, this sense of Catholicity being evident in our respective communions exists was given when I asked Bishop Geoffrey Rowell, just before he died, to jot down something of the conversation he had with Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope. He had asked Ratzinger, ‘What is it that happens in an Anglican Eucharist, do you think? What is true and not true of Anglican orders? What is going on?’ Bishop Geoffrey wrote this:

I asked him about his understanding of the reality of the Eucharist. In a community with an ordered ministry, whose orders he (Ratzinger) did not recognise as valid, was it nothing? He became quite animated, saying emphatically, “No, it is never, ever, nothing”. He said it was difficult for him to find the right theological terminology to express it, but what he gave me in answer to my question was he did not know what Anglicans believe – was it that the faithful are called up to the Heavenly places and there feed on Christ, whose grace is real and is transforming (Calvin’s understanding of Eucharist)? – but he understood there was a reality there, as surely as when the Eucharist is celebrated when a woman is presiding.

The fact that we no longer speak of Catholicity in the monolithic sense that either you have it or you don’t seems to me to be very important. Not only is this true of our ecclesiology, but also, very importantly, it is true of the role of the Pope – the Bishop of Rome, the one for whom the exercise of symbolising/representing unity is so important.

A Service of Love

Again, Kasper goes on to note that in the 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, John Paul II said this. It is a very direct invitation:

In this way the primacy [of Peter] [is] exercised [in the] office of unity. When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that “for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. But…it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognise that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry…. I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek – together, of course – the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognised by all concerned.

‘A service of love recognised by all concerned.’ What might that look like? What might it feel like? How might we respond to it? Well, I want to give an example – an example which I believe will chime in many respects with our life as Anglicans. It is an example from the speech given recently by Pope Francis at a remarkable conference last month in Rome. It was a conference in which leading figures from the ecclesial, political and academic sectors, and from civil society as a whole, were drawn together with bishops from across Europe. Young people had been able to present their expectations and hopes to the conference and to share them in advance. The conference was chaired by the president of the Bishops’ Conference for Europe, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and, interestingly and importantly, it was co‑chaired by Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.

The Church in Society

I want to remind you that when Fisher came back, the Prime Minister was present. That would be unthinkable today. But here we have, once again, a church leader meeting with other church leaders and other representatives of life in all its aspects, political, civic, the academy, young and old – and it is the Pope who is addressing them.

What does he say? He raises key issues. I shall go through them in reverse order. He speaks about a promise of peace for the whole world. He speaks about a source of development. He refers to the encyclical by Paul VI on human development. We are looking at the sciences. We are looking at industry. We are looking at technology. We are looking at the academy. This is not a narrow, church-focused sense of the future of Europe. He speaks about room for solidarity. In terms of solidarity, he is talking about concern for the most vulnerable people of society – the poor, those discarded by social and economic systems, beginning with the elderly and the unemployed. This is at the heart of what we call the Church Urban Fund. This is that sense of responsibility for the whole nation and community which is characteristic, we believe, of the Church of England as an established church with our parochial system. Here it is in the Pope’s speech about the future of Europe. He speaks about an inclusive milieu, one in which there is room for everyone, where they are all viewed as a ‘source of enrichment’. It reminds me of the speech The Queen made at Lambeth Palace to leaders of other faiths, gathered there in her Jubilee year – once again, a statement which is so characteristic of much of our experience as Anglicans ministering to a whole parish. He speaks about being a place of dialogue. He speaks about the recognition of social difference and disproportionate differences between us and bridging those gaps, wherever they might be found.

The Benedictine Tradition

I have gone through the speech backwards, but his starting point is what I think is really important. It is this: ‘What was St Benedict about? St Benedict was not concerned [with] social status, riches or power. He appealed to the [common nature] [of] every human being, who, whatever his or her condition, longs for life and desires to see good days….’

I think this reference to St Benedict, the patron of Europe, is not accidental. Nor is it something by any means distant from us as Anglicans. The impact of the Benedictine rule on our lives has, first of all, a missionary aspect. I grew up and was evangelised as a boy in Rochester Cathedral, itself a Benedictine foundation. So much of our cathedral life – amongst the strongest centres of Christian life and witness and worship and service – is still founded on the Benedictine vision of work and prayer. The sense that we are together, but that liturgy, this opus Dei – this work of God – is at the heart of our lives, seems to me very important for us as Anglicans.

As Catholic‑minded Anglicans, we need to be careful about this. It speaks to us not simply about the ritual with which the liturgy is undertaken; it speaks to us about this sacred work as being the point at which we are constantly evangelised. It is essentially scriptural. It is also the essential forum in which we deepen our life in Christ. The immediacy of the encounter with Jesus Christ in this context is at the heart of what we are about – and the encounter in a liturgical forum is always a communal encounter. There is no space for the privacy which excludes others. It is also about discovering the dignity of every human person in that context.

One of the things I found hugely moving recently was re-establishing a connection with the monastic Benedictine community at Solesmes. It has reminded me of just how powerful the liturgical movement has been, not in terms of organising services – absolutely not that – but in terms of presenting the Christian life, which Fr Peter spoke about as being based on baptism. This is the baptismal adventure and how we encounter it. One of the things I was reading in the introduction to the revised Benedictine Antiphonale Monasticum was the whole question about the timeframe in which we set out our lives. I think this is applicable not simply for monks, but for every Christian. It is the timeframe of the day and its rhythm of prayer. The rising of the sun in the sky is the metaphor for the rising of the Son of Man from the dead. The redeeming of time in the day is one of the pressing needs in a world where time is either so fully costed that it becomes burdensome, or where there is so much of it, because you are not wanted or needed by anybody else, that it is equally burdensome.

Second, the week, which is the model of the unit of creation, of joy and delight in God’s outpouring – once again back to Fr Andrew’s point about participation – and, in the rhythm of this week, the sense that in every week there is an echo of two things. If you read it in the way the Latin works, if you read the numbering of the days, they are feria days until Saturday, which is still sabbato. If you look through the feria days, on the sixth and final day of creation, what does God do? God brings creation to its pinnacle in making you and me, the stewards of all creation, the means by which creation will be redeemed through the Incarnation. And when you look at the day before sabbato, that day is Friday – the day when God remakes creation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us on the cross of Calvary. The week: something which determines who we are and which constantly reminds us of our accountability to God in creation, and also of God’s self-giving to us in love and in redemption.

Importance of Liturgy

I believe these images, which speak so powerfully of the importance of the liturgy, say to us that we perhaps have not even begun yet to explore how this can be – and must be – transformative for our evangelisation. It was very interesting that Bishop Graham referred to one of the Pentecostal or community churches wanting an exemplar to come and bless. I think the human desire for something which undertakes an action is profound. Looking at how our actions articulate our faith in Christ, deepen our encounter with Jesus Christ, convert and preach the Gospel, is of enormous importance to us.

But I think there is more than that in Francis’s reference to the Benedictine community, something which is important for us. This says something about the effect of Catholicity. It says something about its outworking in the task of evangelisation and in the task of serving the missio Dei – God’s mission of salvation and love.

Community Life

There are two aspects I think particularly important with which I want to close, and which again chime with our experience as Anglicans in the Catholic tradition. The first is the focus on community life. Those who are called set themselves apart by vow to become a model of something which is a particular distillation of the hope of the Kingdom of God. I do not want to be sentimental about this, because people who live in community know that it is actually pretty horrible at times, not beautiful and glorious; but it is something which is a gift to the Church. There are some things about that which I think we may be in danger of losing, but which I think it is possible to recover.

The re‑establishment of religious communities in our Communion in this land was an amazingly far‑sighted step, one which liberated women – because the first communities were composed of women – from nineteenth century patriarchy. Read Florence Nightingale, who was depressed that there was no Anglican community for her to join ‘to save myself from becoming an adornment at my husband’s meal table’. So she goes off nursing. Within a few years of her writing that letter, we see religious communities founded in Devonport, and in the Diocese of Chichester at East Grinstead. Here, women are taking control of their own lives in a remarkable and subversive way. They are doing so because they are committed to the poorest and most destitute in society. An astonishing response.

I had the good fortune of being a curate at St Peter’s, Plymouth, where thousands died in the cholera epidemic of 1849. It was the Devonport Sisters who went to minister to the dying, to give decent burial to the dead and to care for the orphans. They faced death every day. They said to the vicar, George Rundle Prynne: ‘Given that we face death daily, we believe, Father, that we should celebrate the Eucharist every day. It may be our last’. It has been believed in that parish from that day until this that this is where the daily mass was started again in the Church of England It has continued ever since. This sense of something subversive for the Gospel, subversive of the way in which human beings have encrusted their relationships in damaging ways, is part of the gift of community life.

Recently, not only have I found some signs of liberation through community life in the monks at Solesmes, but also, very importantly – I do not know if it falls foul of New Monasticism; I just thought they were very nice people – in Chemin Neuf. They are proper. They are the real stuff. They have a habit and so forth. They take vows. They do all that. But the thing which is really good about them is they are absolutely up for reformation. I went to their festival called Welcome to Paradise. I have my festival lanyard with me. I got in under the radar, because the festival is for people aged 18 to 30, but they did not seem to notice me getting past. What was on offer was badminton, blob jump, Body Zorb soccer, canoeing, dragon boat, fitness, football, giant paddle, Paradise Trail, hiking, archery, water skiing, touch rugby and mountain biking. I did not do any of those.

But what was also on offer was Spirituality Hour every morning. There were two choices. There was the noisy version, which was like spiritual aerobics, with all kinds of terrible songs and things, all that kind of Charismatic stuff – very nice – but always with a punch in terms of the spiritual questions about your life, desire, vocation, gift, sin. If you were not doing that, what else could you be doing? Well, you might join about twenty or twenty-five people just sitting around all day, every day, during this week. You might be benefiting from the one‑to‑one mentoring or spiritual direction, which would prepare you to go during Spirituality Hour in the morning to the abbey church at Hautecombe for an hour’s silence, in which you undertook an Ignatian meditation. My lot from the Charismatic HTB church at St Peter’s Brighton were blown away by this. They are not interested in whether it is Catholic or not. This is Christian. This is meeting Jesus Christ in the scriptures. This is the full richness of our inherited spiritual wisdom, lived joyfully, in ways that attracted them.

Just as we can see today, with other people from outside the Roman Catholic Communion, the gift of the Pope in a service of love to us all – in speaking with a common Christian voice to the formative processes of our world – so I believe that we can be re-evangelised from some of the riches of communities elsewhere. We can be renewed, if we are ready to receive from these riches.


Finally, a few more words about liturgy and what I think it offers us – one of the reasons I think it must be important for us. First of all, we have to see our liturgy unashamedly as articulating the authority of the Church. It will not do for liturgy to be flabby. It has to be serious in this regard. To give an example: one of the issues we are tackling at the moment is the confessional. It is utterly vital that in establishing the forum of the confessional we are clear that here is a direct and very specific encounter with Jesus Christ. You do not need choirs, obviously, and it does not much matter what you are wearing; but the context and the liturgical engagement there is of enormous importance.

Second, I think liturgy asserts the freedom of the Church. This document Catholicity was written with the fairly recent background behind it of the failure of the 1928 Prayer Book. It is actually not acceptable for Parliament to rule how our encounter with Jesus Christ in the liturgy should be celebrated. I believe we have seen a similar thing recently in two other areas: the question of equal marriage, and the question of women in the episcopate. In both instances, it has been important for us to say that how we worship expresses our encounter with Jesus Christ and who we are. It is of enormous importance that how we worship expresses the freedom of the Church.

Thirdly and finally, liturgy must assert the inclusive nature of the Church. The damage done by family services is that it says you do not count if you are old. Conversely, the damage done by services in which there are no young people is that it says we do not really want them.


When I was Priest Administrator at The Shrine at Walsingham, one image I shall always treasure is of Shrine Prayers, that marvellously disorganised liturgical saying of the Rosary for all the needs of the world, of England, with ordinary people from tough parishes flowing through that place, pilgrims from places. Many of our parishes at Walsingham, many of the Catholic parishes – two thirds of them – were from areas of acute deprivation. There they all were. I had been told by the priest leading one of those parishes that they had brought with them a lad who had just been released from what was then called a Young Offenders Centre. He had just finished his time. He thought we ought to know. Fine. And there was this lad in Shrine prayers, kneeling, saying the Rosary, saying his prayers, recently released from prison. Inclusivity.

It was better than that. As Shrine prayers unfolded, the door opened and in shuffled Patrick Maitland, Earl Lauderdale, in his bizarre great coat. He made a huge noise, fiddled around, moved the chairs. He was of a great age and so was entitled to do that. By coincidence, he sat next to the lad from the Young Offenders Centre. That is the Church. It is the place where every person of every condition is loved and valued. Our liturgy must be the affirmation of that.

My time is up. These are the reasons why I think Catholicity is at the heart of our Evangelical imperative. It is one of the reasons why sharing it with the great inheritance of our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters does not in any way exclude or diminish our Anglican identity – our understanding of ecumenical relations underlines that. And it is where I believe the service of love by the Pope is a service not simply for us in England, not simply for us in Europe, but a service for the Christian voice in the world at large.

The symposium then ended in a time of discussion.