The Archbishop of Canterbury said on Friday there was no plan to reunite the Anglican and Catholic churches after a split almost five centuries ago but the two would work to keep a 40-year-old dialogue alive.
"There is no plan at all (to reunite)," Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans, told Reuters after meeting South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria.
"We will continue discussions as we have for the past 40 years," he said, when asked whether he wanted the two churches to merge, and whether he expected it to happen under his tenure as archbishop.
Williams, who is in South Africa for an Anglican conference on tackling poverty and HIV/AIDS, has been battling to save the Anglican church from schism amid a bitter debate about homosexual priests and same-sex unions.
The mother church, the heart of the federation of 38 national churches, was founded more than 450 years ago when King Henry VIII broke ties with Rome to divorce his first wife.
Anglican and Catholic leaders said last month a statement was expected to be published later this year about the possibility of reuniting the churches under the pope, although they said merging could be a long journey.
Many outside the church struggle to understand why Anglicans and Catholics remain divided over what may seem minor issues.