Stories of common witness from the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogues
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.
Thousands of Christians from Uganda and neighbouring countries are arriving in Namugongo for special services to commemorate the Ugandan Martyrs. In 3 June 1886, the Kabaka – or King – of Buganda, Mwanga II, killed 32 young Anglicans and Roman Catholic men – who worked as his pages – by burning them alive at Namugongo. They were among 23 Anglicans and 22 Roman Catholics who were put to death by the king for refusing to recant their faith between 1885 and 1887.
Yesterday, services were held at both the Anglican and Roman Catholic shrines in Namugongo, led by bishops from both Churches. Other similar events will be held in the coming days, leading up to national commemorations on Sunday.
The leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in Ireland have issued a joint statement celebrating “all that has been achieved in building peace” since the historic Belfast Agreement was signed 20 years ago. In a joint statement on eve of the 20th anniversary of the agreement, which is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, as it was agreed by political parties on 10 April 1998 – Good Friday – Archbishops Richard Clarke and Eamon Martin, say that the agreement “has continuing potential to transform society and life for all of us. Nothing remotely its equal has been outlined then or since.” Archbishop Richard is the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primates of the Church of Ireland; Archbishop Martin is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and leader of the Catholic Church in the country. They say that the Good Friday Agreement “sought to address contentious political problems in the context of decades of violence, divided communities and immense suffering and death on our streets. As such it was a complex and, in places, controversial document.
Pope Francis will make a historic visit to an Anglican Church in Rome on Sunday. He’ll join the congregation at the Church of England chaplaincy of All Saints for a short Choral Evensong service; it will include the blessing of a specially commissioned icon and the twinning of All Saints with the Catholic parish of Ognissanti, a Rome church with strong ecumenical ties. The event comes as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations for All Saints which began with a small group of worshippers holding the first Church of England liturgy on October 27th 1816. The current church, close to the Spanish steps, was built over half a century later, designed by one of the most famous British architects of the Victorian era, George Edmund Street. All Saints is the largest Anglican congregation in Italy and part of the [Church of England’s] Diocese in Europe. The church, led by its chaplain, Rev. Jonathan Boardman, and assistant chaplain, Rev. Dana English, was recently granted legal recognition from the Italian State. Diocesan Bishop Robert Innes will be welcoming Pope Francis, together with his suffragan Bishop David Hamid.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew joined Pope Francis in Assisi yesterday (Tuesday) to lead an assembly of religious leaders in prayers for peace. More than 500 Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Jain, Shinto and Zoroastrian leaders from around the world had gathered in the birthplace of St Francis for the World Day of Prayer for Peace event, which attracted around 12,000 participants. The Pope, Patriarch and Archbishop each gave a meditation on the theme of peace during an ecumenical prayer service to close the three-day prayer gathering, which had been organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio. This week’s event came on the 30th anniversary of the First World Day of Prayer for Peace, which the then-Pope, John Paul II, convened in 1986.
With growing concern about the plight of refugees, a Catholic parish in the City of Brockville, Ont., is coming together with two Anglican parishes to make a difference in the lives of three refugee families. Agape Brockville is a joint sponsorship effort between St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, St. Paul’s Anglican Church and St. Lawrence Anglican Church. Together, the three parishes are joining forces to prepare new homes for two families from Eritrea and one family from Syria. “The plight of refugees has just been in the news for a long time,” said Michelle Bushnell, a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier and one of the founding members of Agape Brockville. “So we’ve been (increasingly) concerned about what we can do as Christians. Like in World War II, we go back and we admire so much that generation that sacrificed so much for each other and even in World War I… yet today, we have so many more people suffering.”
The Archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, together with his counterpart Stanley Ntangali, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, on Wednesday, broke the ground for the foundation of the Uganda Martyrs Museum estimated to cost sh36b. As part of the activities to commemorate the Uganda Martyrs Day due June 3, next week Tuesday, the Christian leaders, accompanied by several other bishops of both the Catholic and Anglican faiths, also paid homage to both the Catholic and Anglican martyrs’ shrines, located in Namugongo.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Cardinal Vincent Nichols met with delegates from the Peace in the Great Lakes campaign at Lambeth Palace last Thursday. The campaign brings together Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda to encourage a grass-roots movement for peace in the Great Lakes region, which for decades has been affected by political instability and armed conflicts, porous borders and humanitarian crisis, along with tensions over natural resources. The initiative, which was formally launched in December 2013, reaches out to those most affected by the conflict and longing for peace, including women and girls who have experienced trauma and sexual violence.
The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29 million people was co-signed on March 17th by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon; the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo; Dr Mahmoud Azab on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt; and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia “Walk Free”.
The joint statement by the Global Freedom Network signatories, which underscores the searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking, calls for urgent action by all other Christian churches and global faiths. The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support the initiative.
For the first time in history, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims have joined forces in a project to “inspire practical and spiritual action” to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.
High-level representatives from each faith community were at the Vatican today to sign an agreement launching the Global Freedom Network to help eradicate an injustice that affects up to 27 million people.
Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have personally given their backing to the newly-formed organisation that aims to eradicate slavery by encouraging governments, businesses, and educational and faith institutions to rid their supply chains of slave labour.
Their representatives, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science Monseigner Sanchez Sorondo and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See Archbishop Sir David Moxon, signed the historic agreement at a media conference held in Rome this morning.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis have given their backing to a ground-breaking ecumenical initiative to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29 million people was co-signed on March 17th by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon; the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo; Dr Mahmoud Azab on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt; and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia “Walk Free”.