Now, it is great that a Church of England pilgrimage should visit Lourdes; and it is entirely appropriate for the shrine to make them welcome and, indeed, incorporate them into the overall programme for the 150th anniversary celebrations.
Cardinal Walter Kasper and Archbishop Rowan Williams (Church of England), at the grotto in Lourdes
It must also be totally confusing and misleading to those Anglicans, particularly clergy, who have been recieved into the Roman Catholic Church. Little wonder that one occasionally comes across ill informed understandings of what is acceptable ecumenical practice among the latter.
Equally, the posting on the Lourdes website of the programme for the pilgrimage without a clear distinction between "Mass" (ie Church of England, that the Catholic Church would not consider a valid sacramental celebration) and "Mass" (ie a valid, Roman Catholic celebration) is also confusing. I am not sure what the Church's discipline is as far as the use of altars normally used for the celebration of Mass by ministers of other denominations is concerned, but it certainly only adds to the confusion for the Society of Mary pilgrimage to be using the Rosary Basilica for one of their celebrations, and the St Joseph's Chapel for others.
That the Archbishop of Canterbury should preach at the International Mass is, I think, a clear breach of rubrics. One might consider the occasion, however, to be one sufficiently special to forgive the breach ... but one hopes that he could be distinguished from the Catholic bishops celebrating the Mass .... The text of the homily can be found here; rather "C of E", and shows some awareness of the context of Lourdes, but I am not sure I buy into the picture that it portrays of St Bernadette - "Only bit by bit does Bernardette find the words to let the world know; only bit by bit, we might say, does she discover how to listen to the Lady and echo what she has to tell us". The analogy of the apparitions at Lourdes to the visitation of Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary in the Gospel account is attractive, though Archbishop Williams does, I think, slew the picture of St Bernadette as a result.
I can't help thinking that, with a bit of imagination, it would have been possible to facilitate this Anglican pilgrimage without all the problems raised above. I do think we deserve some sort of clarification of exactly what was going on, if only to avoid giving wrong impressions to Anglican and Catholic clergy at a lower level as to what is acceptable ecumencial practice.