The two most senior bishops of the Church of England have branded as "hurtful and unhelpful" the Vatican ban which prevents Roman Catholics from taking communion in non-Catholic churches.

George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world-wide Anglican Communion, and his colleague, David Hope, the Archbishop of York, expressed their view in the foreword to The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity, a statement of Anglican belief by the Church of England's House of Bishops.

The document states that Anglicans find the ban on Roman Catholics receiving Anglican Communion, even in exceptional circumstances "an ecumenical, theological and pastoral affront." Anglicans and Protestants are also prevented, by Vatican rules, from officially receiving communion in Roman Catholic churches. Despite this ban, however, many Anglicans take communion in Roman Catholic churches, particularly when visiting mainly Catholic countries such as France and Italy, and even at the Vatican itself.

The document calls for a more flexible approach by the Vatican. Sharing of the Eucharist between Anglicans and Roman Catholics should not be reserved for the "end point of unity between separated churches." It also states that as the two churches share the same beliefs about the presence of Christ in Holy Communion, Anglicans should not be excluded from receiving the Roman Eucharist.

At a press conference to launch the report on March 21, John Hind, the Anglican Bishop of Europe, made clear his view that Roman Catholics were welcome to receive Anglican communion if their consciences permitted it. The Vatican, however, is not willing to allow sharing of communion with Anglican churches, mainly because it does not recognize Anglican ordinations, and is unlikely ...

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