Benedict XVI has explicitly drawn attention to the next phase of the ecumenical agenda:
In our dialogues ... we cannot ignore the great moral questions about human life, family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace. It shall be important to be able to talk about these issues with one voice, drawing on the basis in Scripture and the living tradition of the Church. Defending the fundamental values of the great Tradition of the Church, we defend humanity and we defend creation.
At one level it can, perhaps, be read as an affirmation of the work undertaken to date by ARCIC and the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue. In other words, in the statements of ARCIC I and II, Anglicans and Roman Catholics have an agreed theological framework which addresses the historic differences between the communions on eucharist, authority, ordained ministry, justification and the BVM. Now, however, we turn to the very issues which are central to the Church's proclamation in postmodern, post-Christian societies and which are, of course, proving to be so divisive within Anglicanism.
There may be a temptation amongst some Anglicans to inwardly groan - 'Rome is now setting up new barriers to deeper communion with Canterbury'. Such a response, while giving expression to anti-papal prejudices all too apparent amongst some progressive Anglicans, misses the point. Anglicanism does indeed need to get its house in order on such issues precisely because of their centrality to the Church's mission in contemporary societies. Benedict is, therefore, providing us with an opportunity - in dialogue with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters - to prayerfully reflect on the mystery of the human person in light of the Tradition's affirmations regarding Creation, Incarnation, Redemption and Resurrection.
Not only has this the potential to lead Anglicans to think through such issues outside of the context provided by our very politicised debates and thus hopefully address some of our ecclesiological dilemmas, it also - perhaps more importantly - directs our gaze towards the new evangelisation and the pressing need to present to our societies a vision of the human person in light of the Crucified and Risen One.