Gay bishops and female clergy are driving a wedge through the prospect of good relations between the Anglican and Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope concluded today.

In his first official visit to the pontiff, Dr Rowan Williams spoke of the importance of unity in the church, the pair presented a declaration which highlighted certain issues straining Christian relations.

The document said: “Our long journey makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress.”

Although the document did not directly mention the issue of gay bishops, its referral to “new developments” is enough of a euphemism.

It comes after the ordination of gay bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson in 2003 and more recently the appointment of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Episcopal Church’s first female leader.

The Vatican is opposed to having gay or female bishops, whereas the Anglican Communion has been slightly more liberal in its approach by agreeing to “exercise restraint” when considering appointing gay clergy.

The Anglican Communion’s acceptance of female and gay bishops has also angered conservative sections within the denomination.

Pope Benedict told the Archbishop, “Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only international relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church,” Reuters reports.

The visit coincides with the 40th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966, it was the first official summit since King Henry VIII split the Church in the 16th Century.