Common witness from the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogues
Pope Francis asked the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland to join him for his usual post-trip news conference on their flight back to Rome from Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 5.
At the end of six days in African countries bloodied by war and conflict, Pope Francis said that “the biggest plague” afflicting the world today is the weapons trade.
Tribalism with its ancient rivalries is a problem, he told reporters Feb. 5, “but it is also true that the violence is provoked” by the ready supply of weapons and that making it easier for people to kill each other just to make money “is diabolical — I have no other word for it.”
As part of their historic ecumenical pilgrimage to South Sudan, Pope Francis, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, led an ecumenical prayer for peace Feb. 4 in Juba. After scolding South Sudan’s political leaders and consoling some of its poorest victims, Pope Francis, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, rallied their faithful to prayer and action.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said “my heart breaks with sorrow for South Sudan” amidst ongoing violence and sectarian conflict in the country. Preaching at All Saints Anglican Cathedral in Juba this morning, the Archbishop urged those who have committed “secret crimes and evil deeds” to ask for God’s mercy and transformation and prayed they would know the “infinite love of Christ”. The Archbishop is currently on a historic three-day Pilgrimage for Peace to South Sudan with Pope Francis and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland.
Pope Francis tells the leaders of divided South Sudan that future generations will either venerate their names or cancel their memory, based on what they do now, and he issues an appeal “to leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn.”
The President and the Vice Presidents of South Sudan have it within their “reach” to extend justice and compassion to all the people of the world’s youngest nation, the Moderator of the General Assembly has said. Addressing President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Vice Presidents in Juba this afternoon, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields told them that the world “needs churches and leaders who are generous of heart, liberal of love, and profligate with God’s grace.” The Moderator made the remarks at an official ceremony held at the “Palais de la Nation” alongside Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Greenshields said the world needs leaders who care about values, the conditions in which people live and act out their faith and work amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised. “These things make for peace,” he added.
Before beginning their ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan, Pope Francis and the leaders of the Anglican Communion and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland asked Christians around the globe to accompany them with prayers. Pope Francis is scheduled to fly first to Congo for a visit Jan. 31-Feb. 3 before meeting up in Juba, South Sudan, with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland. About 60% of South Sudan’s population is Christian, and the leaders’ three denominations are the largest in the country.
Pope Francis invites Christians to pray for his upcoming Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, saying the African nations have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts. Pope Francis sets off on Tuesday as a “pilgrim of peace” to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on 31 January – 5 February.
In South Sudan, “the Church speaks with one voice for peace,” says Presbyterian leader about the upcoming trip with Pope Francis. From February 3 to 5, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Dr. Iain Greenshields, will join Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on a “pilgrimage of peace” to South Sudan. The three Christian branches have worked together for several years to promote peace in the youngest state in the world, which continues to be troubled by conflict since its independence in 2011.
Braving a volatile political and security situation, Pope Francis embarks on a long-anticipated journey of unity and reconciliation to two African countries wracked by bitter divisions, warring factions and humanitarian crises seldom on the radar of international power brokers.
The Pope will travel first to Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Jan. 31 before proceeding to South Sudan from Feb. 3-5. In the latter country, he will be joined by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, in what has been described as an ecumenical pilgrimage to facilitate a peace process that has been moving at a glacial pace following 10 years of a brutal civil war.
Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will make an historic Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to South Sudan from 3rd to 5th February next year.
The long-awaited visit was due to take place in July of this year, but was postponed after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis would not be able to travel on advice from his doctors. The visit was promised during a spiritual retreat held at the Vatican in 2019, in which South Sudanese political leaders committed to working together for the good of their people.
The three spiritual leaders have often spoken of their hopes to visit South Sudan – to stand in solidarity with its people as they face the challenges of devastating flooding, widespread famine and continued violence. Pope Francis has said: “I think of South Sudan and the plea for peace arising from its people who, weary of violence and poverty, await concrete results from the process of national reconciliation. I would like to contribute to that process, not alone, but by making an ecumenical pilgrimage together with two dear brothers, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.”
The joyful carol that we know as the ‘Carol of the Bells’ has its origins in a Ukrainian folk song which in ancient times was sung, not at Christmas, but at this time of the year to mark the fresh beginnings of spring. It tells the tale of a swallow flying into a home after the winter to promise the family a new season of joy, happiness and plenty.
It’s difficult to contemplate such a hopeful scene for the people of Ukraine this Easter as the world continues to witness the horror of death, destruction and displacement being visited on their country these past few months. Peace and prosperity seem a distant dream. It must be much easier for them to meditate on the pain of Good Friday, or on the emptiness of Holy Saturday, than on the joy and happiness of Easter morning.
And yet when the Lord appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, his opening words were ‘Peace be with you’. His words meant much more than the traditional ‘Shalom’ greeting, for in speaking Easter peace, he also showed his friends the wounds of violence in his hands and in his side – the marks of the crucifixion. He therefore identifies himself to them as both the Crucified, and the Risen Saviour, one acquainted with suffering; his peace is offered through the blood of the cross.
Northern Ireland’s top Catholic and Anglican prelates are calling on the UK government to do more to help Ukrainian refugees. “I think perhaps the United Kingdom has said let’s think about the bureaucracy and see how many doors we can open. That’s the wrong way round,” said Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Catholic primate of All Ireland. “I really feel that where there is a humanitarian disaster of this scale in Europe then it behooves all of us to respond generously and urgently to the need,” he said.
His Anglican counterpart, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell, called on the UK government to replicate the European Union in opening its doors to Ukrainian refugees. “The Home Office is not a notoriously sympathetic department and has maybe difficulty processing these matters, but we would certainly urge them to do as much as other countries in the European Union have done and to do that with a good grace and a good heart and to do it quickly, so that people who are already extraordinarily anxious don’t have a further anxiety added when they’re coming to the borders,” McDowell said.
Just before Christmas 1937, Monsignor Ronald Knox wrote a letter to the English Catholic periodical, The Tablet. Knox was the son of a Church of England bishop and had converted to Catholicism shortly after taking a brilliant First at the University of Oxford. He later became the first Catholic Chaplain to Oxford since the Reformation.
The letter arose from a remark that a friend of Knox’s had made, that she “wasn’t going to have her house turned upside down just because it was Christmas”. Thinking afterwards about what she had said, Knox wrote in his letter, “What is Christmas from start to finish but things being turned upside down?”
Even the days, continually darkening in the run–up Christmas, turn with the solstice and light begins to win again. Just when trees should be at their barest, lustrous evergreen branches are brought indoors and enhanced with lights and glitter. And just at a time (especially in the ancient world) when darkness was a cover for thieves in the night coming to burgle homes, in our modern recasting of the story, a genial old boy squeezes himself down the chimney and leaves gifts.
The leaders of the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican communions of churches have issued a rare joint statement on the need to protect creation. The message was released yesterday (Tuesday) during the Season of Creation, which runs from runs from 1 September – designated as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation – to 4 October – the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. It looks ahead to the UN climate change conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
The Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and [Anglican] Primate of All Ireland, has issued the following statement on the UK Government’s planned approach to the Legacy of the Troubles:
‘The announcement yesterday in the House of Commons of the path that the Government intends to follow in relation to Legacy issues in Northern Ireland will have created further heartbreak, frustration and anger for victims of the Troubles. The degree of suffering endured by victims over the years is not something that can be moved on from. It needs to be acknowledged in the full variety of its expression, and dealt with over the long term.
‘Failure to deal with Legacy has probably been the biggest political and societal failing since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The one principle which all involved have been agreed on is that a general amnesty would be a morally empty response. Regardless of the name it goes under, a general amnesty is what the Government of the United Kingdom is now planning to put in place.
One of the words which we associate most strongly with Easter is “hope”. It is a word that has become a bit debased in the way we use it nowadays. “I hope so,” very often means “I would like to think this or that might happen, but I doubt if it will.” Nothing could be further from the victorious and positive nature of our Easter hope.
Easter falls at a season of the year that is full of hopefulness. Longer evenings, Spring flowers, birdsong, and the sap rising in the trees. The whole creation (at least in the Northern hemisphere) is bursting with hope and the promise of new life. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brings that hope to a new level of reality. Far from the resurrection being simply a metaphor that religious people use for natural renewal, as some believe, it is the yearly renewal of the Earth in Spring which is an anticipation of the resurrection; a sign pointing to something greater than itself. A shadow in search of a substance. Transience moving towards permanence.
Two of the country’s most senior church leaders visited Westminster Abbey today (Monday 15th June) when the Great West Door opened for the first time in three months since churches were closed for the Covid-19 lockdown.
Following Government guidance, the Abbey now has re-opened for private prayer. Two of the first visitors were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby; and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
They were welcomed to the Abbey by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, and taken to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor behind the High Altar where they all prayed in silence.
This week, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster wrote to both the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, expressing their opposition to any move by the Government of Israel to annex West Bank territory after 1 July 2020.
These letters followed the recent warning from the leaders of Churches in the Holy Land that the Government of Israel’s proposed annexation of West Bank territory would “bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process.”
In each letter they made clear they “unambiguously support the fundamental right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety but these prospects can only be secured through negotiation rather than annexation.” It is essential that both Israelis and Palestinians may live without violence or the threat of violence from each other or other armed groups, the Cardinal and Archbishop emphasised.
Together we wish you God’s richest blessings this Christmas and through the year ahead.
These few days at the turn of the year offer an opportunity for people who are normally very busy to give worthwhile time to family and friends. It can also be a stressful and difficult time for people who feel estranged from friends and loved ones to whom they were once close, and for those who feel they have no–one they can truly call a friend.
Over Christmas and New Year many people are able to rekindle relationships that have somehow gone sour. We are all capable of bringing light and love into another person’s life – perhaps someone for whom hope itself is fading, someone who desperately needs the rekindling of trust that only care and friendship can bring. Jesus Christ came into the world to bring us not only the light of his love but also the warmth of his friendship. Indeed, he assured his disciples that they were more than just “followers”; they were his “friends” (John 15.15).
A Roman Catholic bishop and his Anglican counterpart have been inspired by an official international ecumenical mission partnership to create a joint project to address the development needs of children living in poverty. In October 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis jointly commissioned and sent out 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to do joint mission across the world. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Saint John, Robert Harris, and the Anglican Bishop of Fredericton, David Edwards, were not part of that initiative; but inspired by it the two bishops – whose dioceses overlap – have signed a joint declaration to launch a child development programme.
The project, “Dads & Tots”, will work with single fathers from the Waterloo Village and South End neighbourhoods of Saint John, a port city in Canada’s New Brunswick province. The project will enable mentoring relationships with experienced fathers who can teach them parenting skills and facilitate weekly relationship-building sessions whereby the fathers can interact with their children in a controlled literacy- and play-based environment.
The project follows the formation last year of a Saint John IARCCUM Group between the two dioceses. Dads & Tots has now begun as a six-week pilot ahead of its permanent launch in January. It is being run by a specialist in early childhood intervention and will use facilities and equipment donated by the two dioceses.