Benedict XVI is sending Ivan Cardinal Dias to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, in what is reported as an attempt to show support for Archbishop Williams in his time of trial. Dias is an Indian, and serves as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a name which must surely sound better in Latin.
This is all very sweet, in that typically Vatican way. You know, a bit of diplomacy fraught with coded symbolism, touching in its heartfelt obscurity. But we're not sure that, given the climate of the Anglican Communion, it will make any difference. At this point, the global-south bishops are drunk with their newfound power, while the Americans are as utterly convinced as ever of their moral duty to deliver the rest of the planet from its backwardness. Williams, lucky feller, is standing right between the unstoppable force and the immoveable object. It will take rather more than a visiting dignitary to pull him out.
He could die, dramatically and heroically, saving a child from horrible death. And his last words, gasped into the ears of both Peter Akinola and Katherine Jefferts Schori, could be "Woman, behold thy son." That might -- conceivably -- prevent Williams from being the bishop who presided over the Great Anglican Schism (or as future Church History students will write on their flash-cards, "Welshman passed G.A.S."). But not much else.
So Benedict's gesture, while sweet on its own terms, is only one among the many futile things we have to look forward to before and during Lambeth. Stay tuned.