Monday, February 15, 2010

Frank of Zanzibar

I continue to attend with gladness to the news on The Anglo-Catholic about the nearing approach of the first Ordinariates for incoming Anglicans under the provisions of Anglicanorum cœtibus.  The latest article, by Bp Mercer of the TAC in Canada, is heartening, and, as I commented there (and repost here), it is strange how synchronicity strikes – for just this afternoon I bought secondhand a first edition (1926) of H. Maynard Smith’s Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar, the biography of that great, saintly Anglo-Catholic apostle of East Africa (1871-1924). 

How his shade must rejoice to see this day!

Frank Weston is of course famous for chairing the second Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1923, particularly for the telegram he sent in the name of the same to Pope Pius XI:

“16,000 Anglo-Catholics, in congress assembled, offer respectful greetings to the Holy Father, humbly praying that the day of peace may quickly break.”

In his Defence of the English Catholic (quoted in this book) he wrote of this telegram:

“In 1920 we bishops at Lambeth publicly called upon all Christian people to pray and work for reunion. We declared that reunion with Rome was our Lord’s will. We pointed out how especially close were our ties with Rome and the Orthodox East. And we publicly expressed our determination to submit ourselves to the conscience of the Roman Church in the matter of orders should terms of reunion be in other respects settled. [So Hepworth's recent pastoral, whatever foolish folk elsewhere may say, but restates the policy of the Anglican bishops of 90 years ago!] I was, therefore, strictly within my rights in assuming that in all parishes, more especially in Anglo-Catholic parishes, the bishops’ words had been read, explained and emphasised; and that for the last three years English people had been stirred up to desire, and pray for, reunion with the Roman and Orthodox Churches. … It was only fitting, then, that we should pay such honour as was possible to the Pope of Rome. Hence my proposal that we should respectfully greet him, and call to his mind the fact that we are humbly praying for the day of peace. … the action of the bishops in the Lambeth Conference of 1920 is a sound precedent for the despatch of the telegram. And, if I am denied this precedent, I fall back confidently upon our Lord’s own teaching. …I humbly submit, as a member of the Lambeth Conference of 1920, that the priests were then given a glorious opportunity, by some 250 English Bishops, of accustoming their flocks to a vision of a reunited Christendom, with the Pope as the central figure… May I humbly suggest that before the telegram be quite forgotten, the Lambeth Appeal, in its relation to reunion with Rome, be explained to the people concerned?”

Back in 1920, he had written of “an undivided College of Bishops [including] Roman [and] Anglican… Each communion… would retain its own customs, methods, and ways of worship, as far as is compatible with life in a universal fellowship that professes one faith, possesses one episcopal ministry, and uses sacraments common to all. Between these groups there would be intercommunion and all such acts of mutual fellowship.”  Just as the Pope now proposes!

He maintained that Rome’s example of ‘Uniate’ Churches was the only system possible – is not this very much in the spirit of Anglicanorum cœtibus

He also added so presciently,

“If Anglo-Catholics spend their time picking holes in the language of the Appeal [or of the TAC's Petition, or of Anglicanorum cœtibus, I suspect he would now add], rather than in thanking God for what He has done for us, they will be, indeed, blind leaders of the blind.”

In his day, the Lambeth Appeal came to nothing… would that the same never be said of the Petition and the Apostolic Constitution now in process of being realized!

It ought be noted that and note that Bp Frank Weston, to quote his biography, “earnestly desired reunion with Rome, but [not] individual submission… fully convinced of his own priesthood… [but see his own words above]… hoping that the day would come when Rome would… give an authoritative interpretation of infallibility which would make it possible to [unfeignedly believe] that doctrine… [given] the facts of history and theological truth” – theologians commonly state that Vatican II quite correctly put Papal infallibility in its proper context of the teaching role of worldwide episcopate, completing the work of Vatican I in this area, neither taking away from the special role of Peter to confirm his brethren in the Faith, if necessary making the final ruling, nor making bishops mere puppets of the Pope, which would deny their own apostolic rights.

Bp Weston died on the 2nd of November, 1924; I quote what “the native [Roman] Catholic Christians, members of the congregation of the Vicariate Apostolic of Zanzibar” wrote of him in their open letter to Weston’s Archdeacon: “Also, because of his holy life, we are sure, through our Mighty God and our Lord Jesus Christ, his Lordship’s soul is at rest in peace before the Holy Trinity in heaven. ‘Exoramus pro [anima] famuli tui Frank Weston. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei; requiescat in pace.’”

Perhaps now, in God’s time, Anglo-Catholics at length have the fruition of the prayers of Frank of Zanzibar?


NB Many of his writings, together with the biography I quoted from above, are available at the page "Frank Weston" at Project Canterbury.

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