Saint Mary’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Limerick, in conjunction with Limerick City and County Council, was delighted to welcome Museum of the Moon recently. Museum of the Moon came to the city as part of Limerick St Patrick’s Festival 2019. It is a new touring artwork by artist Luke Jerram, bringing together a fusion of lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound. The moon features detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. Tying in with the theme of this year’s parade – ‘One Giant Leap’ – and honouring the lasting effect that the moon landing has had on the world, the Museum of the Moon was present in the Cathedral for a week, during which over 15,000 people visited Limerick’s oldest building. [Church of Ireland Press Office]
This page carries news from the wider Church and comment from the rector.
Click > at the end of each story for earlier reports, or < for later ones.
It is with deep shock and indignation that World Council of Churches (WCC) received the news that 49 people have been killed and at least 20 were wounded in terrorist attacks at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch and at the mosque in the suburb of Linwood in New Zealand.
Rev. Ray Coster, WCC Central Committee member from Aotearoa New Zealand said, “We share with sisters and brothers in the wider ecumenical family our pain and grief in one of New Zealand’s darkest hours and crave their prayers for the many Muslim families grieving at this time. Some of these families may be migrants or refugees. They are part of us. Many came seeking refuge and safety as Aotearoa New Zealand is perceived as a safe place. As a nation we value compassion, kindness and tolerance. What we have seen today has no place in our culture.”
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, stated: “This terrible crime against women, men and children at the time of their prayers is an attack on all believers and an assault on the bonds of shared humanity and peaceful coexistence which unite us all. The WCC stands in solidarity with all Muslims at this time, especially the Muslims of Aotearoa New Zealand, and expresses the strongest possible condemnation of these actions and of the hateful and dangerous ideologies that stand behind them.”
Dr Tveit expressed his deep condolences to the Muslim community, and all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, for this massacre is an attack on the whole nation and its values of inclusion and respect for all its citizens. He added: “We pray that all the communities of Aotearoa New Zealand will come together to support those who have suffered so dreadfully and to reaffirm the nation’s commitment to the safety and flourishing of all its people”.
He concluded: “At this time the WCC reiterates its long-standing commitment to dialogue and harmony with the Muslim communities of the world. We affirm to all our Muslim friends and partners that we utterly reject such actions and call on all Christian people to follow in the way of Jesus Christ by seeking to live in peace and respect with all our neighbours, and especially committing ourselves to the protection of vulnerable minorities.” [WCC News]
World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches across the globe are participating in a campaign to end violence in schools, an effort that is part of a larger partnership, called “Churches’ Commitments to Children,” between the WCC and UNICEF.
The #ENDviolence campaign resulted from a September 2018 report, “An Everyday Lesson: #ENDviolence in Schools,” showing that half of the world’s teenagers experience peer violence in and around school.
UNICEF also launched an online poll aimed at 13 to 24-year-olds that gave young people the option to share their views online. Those views helped shape an #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto, completed in December 2018, which will be delivered to education ministers and other decision-makers at critical milestones throughout 2019.
WCC member churches in Mozambique, Germany, Jamaica, South India, Philippines, Nigeria, Uruguay, South Africa, Chile, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo participated in the online poll as well as in workshops with youth that helped contribute their reflections to the manifesto.
One million young people responded to the global poll, and 69% of them said that they had been afraid of violence in or around their school. In the responses, 24,000 youth provided comments emphasizing the need to take students’ concerns seriously and recommending ways to make schools safer.
Church-run schools make up a large percentage of educational institutions worldwide. The WCC also held a workshop, “Ending Violence in and Through Schools,” on 21 November 2018 in Geneva as part of a World Children’s Day celebration. [WCC News]
A delegation of churches in Europe met in Bucharest on 28 January with Teodor-Viorel Meleșcanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, to exchange views on the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council.
The delegation was composed by representatives of Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Conference of European Churches (CEC) and Committee of Representatives of Orthodox Churches to the European Union (CROCEU), who shared their perspectives on the four priorities of the Romanian Presidency: 1) Europe of convergence; 2) A safer Europe; 3) Europe, as a stronger global actor; 4) Europe of common values.
Romania holds the EU Presidency in a time of transformative changes impacting on the institutional future of the EU, and the lives of millions living in the EU.
The delegation enjoyed dialogue with the Romanian Presidency about the importance of putting the human person at the center of increasingly digitalised societies. They also emphasised the importance of a comprehensive view of security, environmental concerns, and improving religious literacy through education.
The open and transparent dialogue between Churches and the respective EU Council Presidencies is part of a long-standing practice now supported by the Article 17 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
As part of their time in Romania, the delegation participated in an audience with His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and exchanged views on the churches’ role in the EU with Victor Opaschi, State Secretary for Religious Affairs. [CEC News]
One of the major themes of the Christmas season is the message of the coming of Light into the darkness of our world. As John says in his Gospel, speaking of the Lord Jesus, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
Yet some 2,019 years later, there is still much darkness in this world. We see pictures in newspapers and on television that speak of suffering and despair in different countries and regions, and even here on the island of Ireland, both north and south, many live their lives with a lack of security and an absence of hope.
The ongoing uncertainty of Brexit has added to those worries, both for businesspeople and ordinary citizens alike. Many businesses fear for the future, while many families, struggling to make ends meet today, are anxious about what that future might hold.
It is a great encouragement to see the willingness of people in our local communities to reach out to their neighbours in need through initiatives such as food banks. However, the marked increase in people needing to avail of such facilities is a worrying trend. Added to this, in Northern Ireland the lack of a functioning devolved government not only drains hope from our society, but also has meant an ever increasing pressure on our schools, our hospitals, our welfare system and many other aspects of society’s infrastructure. As so often happens, it is the vulnerable and the marginalised that suffer most and they should be at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers as we enter into a new year.
While such situations can be very challenging for many people, today across Ireland there are also glimmers of hope. Up and down the island, neighbours are looking out for neighbours. Ordinary people, community and church groups are caring for those in need. People of good intent are stepping up to the mark and giving positive leadership on the ground, working for the common good. In villages and towns across the island political, church and community leaders are making a difference at a local level.
As Church Leaders we have urged the leaders of our political parties in Northern Ireland to do the same – to make a difference and to bring a sense of hope. We were encouraged by the willingness of party leaders to meet with us last September, as we sought to provide a safe space to facilitate open discussion and mutual understanding. A series of regional meetings is also underway, bringing together local politicians, community and church leaders to talk with one another, to build relationships and again to foster mutual understanding. Such initiatives, along with others being taken by different people of good will at local and regional level, can bring glimmers of hope. For that we want to give thanks – it’s always better to light a candle than simply to curse the darkness.
The Christmas message of the Light coming into our darkness brings us our ultimate hope, for it is the Lord Jesus Christ who remains the hope of the world. No matter how dark our world might be, the Gospel reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5). At the start of this New Year, may we put our trust in Him – as we look to Him in simple faith and in His name seek to bring hope and light to our local community and to this our island home.
May you know the blessing of the Lord in the year that lies ahead.
The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
The Most Revd Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland
The Rt Revd Charles McMullen, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
The Revd Billy Davison, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
The Revd Brian Anderson, President of the Irish Council of Churches
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the leader of the Protestant Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, have issued an urgent appeal “to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU”.
The Church leaders made their plea in a joint statement at a time when the British government and the European Commission are finalising a deal to revoke the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Bishop Heinrich visited Lambeth Palace, the London offices and official residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury, for two days last month, during which the Church leaders drew up their joint statement.
“Europe is changing but the Church of God remains constant in its witness”, they said. “The deep commitment that we have to one another is not based on our common membership of the European Union but on our membership of the body of Christ.” [ACNS]
The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out his vision for the next once-in-a-decade meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, saying that “the world . . . needs the good news of Jesus Christ.” He said that the world “needs to see it in our actions, envy it in our love together, and hear it in our confident proclamation of the good news of Jesus.” He made his comments in a video for the brand new Lambeth Conference website as the dates for the meeting were confirmed as Thursday 23 July until Sunday 2 August 2020.
Most of the meeting will take place at the University of Kent in Canterbury. There will also be a programme day in London and two Lambeth Conference Eucharists at Canterbury Cathedral.
“This conference is about listening to God, through scripture and in prayer and through each other, so we go out with our hearts on fire”, Archbishop Justin said in the video.
He also acknowledged the on-going disagreements in the Anglican Communion, most notably over sexuality and the interpretation of Scripture. “The differences we have are differences within the family”, he said. “They are about how we live as a holy people; how we live in a way that shows we are God’s people.
“We do have very important differences, but we must show that we respect each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, and that we learn to disagree in a way that demonstrates that we love and value each other. . . But whatever views we come with, we come to be under the authority of Scripture, and inspired by the Spirit.”
Last week, a group of leading New Testament scholars from around the world gathered at Lambeth Palace for the St Augustine Seminar – the start of a programme of preparing Bible study and biblical reflection for the Conference.
The main Bible Study text will be on the 1 Peter. In his video message, Archbishop Justin said that it would “lead us into all kinds of key themes. It leads us especially into the theme of being God’s people, in God’s world, for God’s world. ‘Once you were no people, now you are a people’. God has created us, made us, changed us, transformed us, and we are to be key in his transformation of the world around us.”
The Archbishop is currently sending invitations to every active bishop in the Anglican Communion and their spouse. The Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland are working on a “hospitality initiative” to enable bishops travelling from overseas to spend time in dioceses and parishes in the UK and Ireland in the days leading up to the Lambeth Conference.
The ticket price has been set at £4,950. A bursary scheme has been established to ensure every bishop is able to attend. More details are available on the Lambeth Conference website.
A number of Christian leaders from other denominations and church families will also be invited. The list of ecumenical guests is still being finalised.
The programme is being prepared by the Lambeth Conference Design Group, chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba. It is being shaped by reflections from Primates of the Anglican Communion’s 40 Provinces, who are meeting in regional groups this year and next to have their say on the Lambeth Conference agenda.
Regional Primates’ Meetings have already been held in Oceania and Africa. The Americas regional Primates’ Meeting is taking place this week in Toronto, Canada. Primates from Europe, the Middle East and Asia will gather in three separate regional meetings next year. [ACNS]
A delegation of young adults from the Diocese of Lusaka helped a regional consultation on families under pressure to “revisit our thinking about the place of young people in our families, communities and churches”. Each of the 15 dioceses in the Church of the Province of Central Africa sent one male and one female participant to the six-day consultation, which was organised by the International Anglican Family Network (IAFN). They were joined on one day by 26 young people from the Diocese of Lusaka, who challenged them to think about the tensions between “digitally native” young people and older BBCs – people Born Before Computers.
The consultation, “Families under pressure: How can churches respond?” was a celebration of the family as a foundation for human flourishing and the place where Christians can build up resilience to cope with change and challenge in society. The participants looked at a number of issues, such as economic hardship, inter-generational poor parenting, substance abuse, child marriage, domestic abuse, and technology and the generation gap, which can put families under pressure.
They shared information about what steps they are already taking in their dioceses to respond to these issues and reflected on what steps might be taken at diocesan and provincial levels to strengthen families in such a way that every member flourishes.
“Consulting with youth challenged us to revisit our thinking about the place of young people in our families, communities and churches”, Canon Robert Sihubwa, the Provincial Youth Coordinator for Central Africa, said. “They reminded us that not all parents are good role models and sometimes the church is the only place they can run to.
“In families there is often tension around the use of technology and cell phones”, he said. “Our youth are ‘digital natives’ and it is sometimes hard for people ‘Born Before Computers’ to understand how information technology and mobile communication have become normal and integral to their lives.”
“So together we looked at the potential of IT, and the communication it makes possible, to assist in building and strengthening our families, and in building Christ’s Church and serving God’s mission in the world.”
The Bishop of Southern Malawi, Alinafe Kalemba, was the Province’s episcopal representative at the consultation. He said: “Meeting the young Christians challenged us and told us things we hadn’t noticed. They said, ‘you don’t pay attention to us; you want us to live like you but we are us.’
“We have said ‘your time will come’. We haven’t allowed them to participate. But now we have discussed how they can minister to us. My approach will be different now.”
The Chair of the IAFN is David Rossdale, the former Bishop of Grimsby in the Church of England’s Diocese of Lincoln. “The family is always under pressure”, he said. “This is nothing new. When under pressure, as Christians we can’t simply turn away, but we can try to understand how to face the challenges which the modern world brings, recognising the pressures and how to moderate them, whilst at the same time celebrating what is good in and a blessing in what the future offers.” [Anglican News]
As the death toll from an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia soared above 800 on Sunday 30 September, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit urged all people of good will across the world to reach out in support, care, help and prayer to thousands of earthquake survivors coping with the aftermath.
“My prayers are with them and those who lost their lives, and their bereaved families,” Tveit said. “Our lives are vulnerable. Kyrie eleison. God, have mercy!”
The 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck on 28 September on the island of Sulawesi. On 30 September, officials said they expect the death toll to climb as rescuers sifted through the destruction. Aftershocks were still rocking the region, with more than 2.4 million people affected by the quake.
The quake comes weeks after a 5 August earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing more than 430 people. [WCC News]
The 150th anniversary of the first printed edition of Te Paipera Tapu – the Bible in the Maori language – is being celebrated in New Zealand.
The work that led to the Maori language Bible began years before-hand, when Anglican priest Samuel Marsden, working as a Church Missionary Society (CMS) worker in Sydney, was given permission to establish a mission in New Zealand.
He preached at New Zealand’s first Church service on Christmas Day in 1814, introducing 300 Maori to the Gospel, using as his theme Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”
Edited versions of the scriptures – the books of Genesis, Exodus, Matthew and John – were printed in Sydney and shipped to New Zealand; before CMS arranged for a printing press and printer to be shipped to the islands from London. This resulted in the first ever book printed in New Zealand: a 16-page edition of Ephesians and Philippians in Maori, in 1835.
Between 1836 and 1837, the press printed some 5,000 copies of the New Testament in Maori, before the first full Maori Bible was published in 1868.
To mark the sesquicentennial anniversary, that first edition has been made available in digital form, “and this digitised version will be one of the many tools used to help produce a new translation in more contemporary language for today’s Te Reo Māori speakers,” the Bible Society in New Zealand said.
Since that original 1868 edition, three further versions were published in 1889, 1925 and 1952. In 2012 the 1952 edition was published in a reformatted version.
“Translation of any significance takes time, and anecdotal evidence suggests that contemporary Maori usage is already considerably different from the language of the current Maori Bible,” the Bible Society’s Translations Director, Dr Stephen Pattemore, said. “So we need to be pro-active.”
The Bible Society is developing a Maori language Bible app, which will feature the 2012 Maori Bible text, alongside English Bible translations for people who want to compare the two languages. The new app will launch early next year. [ACNS]
Calling Kofi Annan - who died on 18th August and was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 - a leader with hard-won wisdom and maturity in our time, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary gave thanks to God for Annan's life, which he described as a gift to the United Nations and the whole world.
“He will be recalled as the leader who acted to unify and transform the United Nations,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC general secretary. Tveit added that Annan was a “liberator who by force of his personality inspired the political leaders and grassroots movement to work for just peace in the world.”
In her reaction to Annan's death, Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, said, “We thank God for giving us Kofi Annan for 80 years. Through his life and works he has become an icon of just peace and freedom for all human beings.”
Abuom said: “We will remember Annan for his strong commitment to just peace and mutual accountability. We have lost a great leader and diplomat who served with humility and purpose of the task. As a mediator we in Kenya remember his historic role as he helped save Kenya from the brink of civil war in 2007/2008. May God rest his soul in eternal peace.”
“Our prayer is all that Annan stood for may become part and parcel of our global values for justice, peace and dignity for the whole humanity,” added Abuom.
WCC President in Europe, Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Weyryd commented: ”Kofi Annan was a credible and much needed revitaliser of the UN. His integrity and commitment arose respect and renewed the will of many to support the UN and its mission.”
Annan's life was also described by the WCC’s general secretary as “consistent with the best teaching of nonviolent leadership”. Calling him one of the well deserved Nobel peace laureates, Tveit added that Annan's leadership ideals inspired a new generation and transformed the United Nations during his leadership. Annan also strengthen the role of religious leaders in peace building. [WCC News]
A rare medieval Bible has been returned to Canterbury Cathedral some 500 years after it was removed.
The Lyghfield Bible – named after the 16th Century monk who once owned it – was amongst a number of items removed from the cathedral’s monastic library at the time of the reformation.
The monastic community at Canterbury was one of many which were dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII as he attempted to assert his authority over the newly independent Church and plunder its assets.
The 690-leaf volume was purchased last month from a private seller at a specialist sale of manuscripts in London. The purchase was funded in part through a £96,000 grant from Britain’s National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and further funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a private donation.
The purchase of the Lyghfield Bible and its return to Canterbury Cathedral means that the rare manuscript will remain in the UK.
“The Lyghfield Bible was written in the latter 13th century on high quality parchment or vellum which is almost tissue-like in quality,” Canterbury Cathedral said. “The fine Latin script and extensive and very fine illumination (decoration) was probably produced in Paris, one of the medieval centres for this type of work.
“The Bible is pocket-sized and as such was designed for personal use, possibly whilst travelling. The volume formed part of the collection of the medieval monastery of the Cathedral in the 16th century, but may well have been in Canterbury well before that time.”
The cathedral’s library and book collection were dispersed following the disbanding of the monastic community, with many volumes destroyed or taken apart for the reuse of their materials. Just 30 volumes of the original library remain at the cathedral.
The Lyghfield Bible is the only complete Bible from the medieval book collection which is now at the Cathedral and is part of a collection which is inscribed on the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. It is said to be the finest example of a complete illuminated book from that collection.[ACNS]
A delegation of Austrian and European church representatives met in Vienna on 23rd July with Karoline Edtstadler, Secretary of State for Home Affairs of the Austrian government, to exchange views on the priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council.
Regular meetings of churches with the rotating EU Presidency have been taking place for more than 20 years. They are an expression of the regular dialogue between the EU and churches, religious, philosophical, and non-confessional organisations as established in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The starting point for this discussion was a working document entitled 'Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU - Reflections and Recommendations of the Christian Churches in Europe'.
On the subject of Brexit, the church representatives emphasized the need for efforts to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Church representatives said that “a visible frontier that jeopardises the common achievement of reconciliation and peace, and divides citizens on both sides must be avoided.”
In the field of migration and asylum policy, the delegation invited EU leaders to work for a Common European Asylum System, and to make it an appropriate tool to manage migration. All participants agreed that Europe is in need of migrants for obvious reasons.
In this area, the church delegation presented to Secretary of State Edtstadler interesting proposals, such as “circular migration,” which should open up legal channels for low-skilled workers who meet the needs of receiving countries. They criticised the criminalisation of migrants and the poor respect for their fundamental rights, and called for their humane treatment in every phase of their journey, including when returning to the country of origin.
A final topic addressed during the meeting was climate change and the upcoming COP 24 meeting in Katowice in December. Churches and church relief agencies are profoundly involved in this upcoming United Nations climate summit. The churches hope for a further strengthening of EU leadership in the UN climate negotiations and a leading role of the Presidency in preparing an EU contribution to the climate summit COP 24 in December in Katovice.
The delegation was composed of:
DDr Peter Schipka, Secretary General of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference;
Bishop Dr Michael Bünker, Bishop of the Protestant Church A.B. (Lutheran) in Austria;
Fr. Athanasius Buk, priest of the Greek-Oriental Metropolis of Austria;
Bishop Andrej Cilerdzic, Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Austria, Vice-President of the Austrian Council of Churches;
Dr Michael Kuhn, Deputy Secretary General of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE);
Rev. Sören Lenz, Executive Secretary of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
[Conference of European Churhces News, abbreviated]
The General Synod of the Church of England has backed a motion calling on the Government to restate its commitment to the principles of nuclear arms control and eventual nuclear disarmament in a debate today at the General Synod.
Members of the General Synod urged the Government to ‘respond positively’ to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, by setting out its strategy for meeting its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, told the General Synod that the motion was not about a ‘binary choice’ between unilateral or multilateral approaches but sought instead to give fresh impetus to the debate about nuclear disarmament.
“What we are voting for this evening is a new national debate about the retention and development of nuclear weapons,” he said.
“We have reached international agreements about other indiscriminate weapons such as chemical weapons and cluster bombs. These agreements are based on established principles in international law around the need for discrimination in conflict – so why can’t we fill the gap in international law and develop plans towards a world without nuclear weapons as well?”
General Synod heard from the Chaplain of the Fleet, Martyn Gough, who paid tribute to the men and women of the Royal Navy who work on the submarines that form the UK’s nuclear deterrent who ‘simply seek to serve God, the Queen and our country.”
“This is a complex and emotional subject, so please as you consider the rights and the wrongs of the nuclear deterrent, remember and pray for the men and women of the Naval Service who have for the past 50 years tried to keep our peace,” he said.
The Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster, also paid tribute to the ‘tens of thousands of fine young men and women in all the Armed Forces, who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe’.
The General Synod welcomed the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the ‘clear signal’ it sends that nuclear weapons are ‘both dangerous and unnecessary’.
Members also backed work with Anglican Communion and other churches in addressing the reasons why Governments seek to acquire nuclear weapons and to efforts towards achieving a ‘genuine peace’ through their elimination.
The motion has been passed after 122 states voted a year ago to adopt the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with the Treaty thought likely to be approved later this year at the United Nations General Assembly.
Under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the five recognised nuclear weapons states are permitted to possess nuclear weapons but only if they commit themselves to the principles of nuclear arms control and eventual disarmament. [C of E News]
By Gavin Drake
The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has welcomed a visit by the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, to the area, and the message of peace and harmony that he bought. Prince William completed his five day tour of Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories yesterday morning (Thursday 28th June) in Jerusalem’s Old City, where he visited sites sacred to the three Abrahamic religions: the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many Christians belief stands on the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The visit was the first official visit by a member of the UK’s royal family to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, invited Archbishop Suheil to accompany Prince William on his tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because of the links between the royal family and the Anglican Communion, through their close connection with the Church of England.
The visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the final stop on a whirlwind five-day tour for Prince William. After spending two days in Jordan, during which he visited a refugee camp housing Syrians fleeing the conflict there, he flew to Tel Aviv before travelling to Jerusalem
His first official engagement in Israel was a visit to Yad Vashem, the international holocaust memorial centre, museum and school. Here the Prince took part in a simple but moving wreath laying ceremony before Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, recited the Jewish prayer for the dead – the El Malei Rachamim. He also met two survivors of the holocaust – two men who, as children, were put on specially chartered trains for Jewish children – the Kinder Transport – taking them to safety in the UK.
“By visiting the Old City . . . he really sent a very strong message for the three religions and the two communities – the Israeli and the Palestinian communities – that I am here really just to emphasise the need for harmony and peace amongst all the religions and communities who live in this city,” Archbishop Suheil told the Anglican Communion News Service last night. “This is what we need and this is part of our mission of reconciliation.”
“I believe that he did his best to accomplish a mission for peace and reconciliation; first of all amongst the governments – the Israeli and the Palestinian governments – and, I think, between different communities and religious communities here.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) at a reception in the British Consulate, I saw Jews, Christians and Muslims together, attending the ceremony. . . It is a gesture that this man is here for peace and reconciliation.”
During his visit, Prince William met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem; before travelling to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He also visited a Palestinian refugee camp. Throughout his time in Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Prince William met with many young people taking part in cultural and sporting projects. [ACNS]
Midwives from across Northern Ireland recently attended a special Choral Evensong in Belfast Cathedral, celebrating 100 years of the Midwives Act in Ireland.
Midwives Acts across the UK were the birth of a regulated profession and established standards for education and training.
Around 150 serving and retired midwives, family, friends and others connected to midwifery, attended the very happy Belfast Cathedral service.
Organised by the Royal College of Midwives, it was one of a number of events celebrating this milestone in the history of midwifery and giving thanks for midwives everywhere.
The address was given by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, and Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, read a lesson.
There was music from the Choir of Belfast Cathedral. During the service a candle was lit in memory of all Irish midwives who have died. Intercessions were led by serving and former midwives.
Those attending the service enjoyed the opportunity to browse an exhibition of memorabilia of midwifery in Ireland over the years.
Belfast Cathedral parishioner Hazel McCalister, a midwife of 40 years, was one of the organisers of the Midwives 100 service. She said that midwife means ‘with women.’ “I love the privilege of being present for new life. It is such a privileged job,” she said. [Church of Ireland Press Office/Royal College of Midwives]
The latest edition of the Eco–Congregation Ireland newsletter highlights events, case studies and suggested activities to help parishes take a greater interest in the environment. This issue includes coverage of the Church and Society Commission’s seminar on climate change, environmental initiatives at General Synod, and an Eco–Congregation Ireland Award for the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland parishes in Westport.
Eco–Congregation Ireland is an initiative of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, and includes members from the Roman Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church and Religious Society of Friends.
Visit www.ecocongregationireland.com [Church of Ireland Press Office]
From the Assembly of the Conference of European Churches to the churches and peoples of Europe
You shall be my witnesses: Acts 1:8 From east, west, north and south the member churches of the Conference of European Churches travelled to the crossroads of Europe. We came with vision and hope for the future of Europe.1 We came together in Serbia, thankful for and blessed with the hospitality of our host churches and acknowledging their challenges. We gathered at a time of uncertainty for Europe where many experience a loss of dignity, exploitation, destitution and the abuse of power. By the banks of the Danube in Novi Sad, where bridges were destroyed in conflict and rebuilt in peace, we united in prayer. We brought our thirst for justice; our deep concern for people, our continent and our world. We came to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the bringer of healing and peace. We affirm that we have heard Christ’s command to be His witnesses and we choose to live in hope. Following Christ Himself, we pledge to be bridge builders through the transformational power of faith. As a living testimony of faith, we respond to Christ's call and declare:
We shall witness to Christ
• By proclaiming Christ’s offer of saving love and grace to the world:
• By coming together to enjoy our ecumenical fellowship and to receive its richness as God’s gift to us.
• By affirming that each person is created in the image and likeness of God and has inherent dignity as a result.
• By being an inclusive community, committed to the flourishing of women and men, welcoming people and protecting the human dignity of all people
• By being an intergenerational community, valuing the voices of young people who are our present and not only our future.
• By practising solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Europe and beyond.
We shall serve Christ by seeking and practising justice
• By urging individuals, institutions and churches to work for the end of violence, persecution and discrimination, upholding freedom of religion or belief.
• By seeking reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
• By standing with, empowering and listening to those who find themselves silenced or in the margins of our churches, our communities and our world.
• By caring for God’s creation and working for ecological and climate justice and a sustainable future for our planet.
We shall serve Christ by offering and accepting hospitality
• By offering a generous welcome to refugees and strangers of all faiths or beliefs.
• By engaging in dialogue, sharing our Christian faith and learning from each other.
• By raising our voices to overcome division, exclusion and marginalisation and advocating human rights and socio-economic justice for all.
• By recognising the hospitality given to us by God in the created world and by working towards the integrity of creation.
We call on our member churches and all people to join us in shaping a Europe where we build bridges for the good of all in our continent and world.
Let us proclaim together ‘we shall be your witnesses”. [CEC News]
The third gathering of the Global Christian Forum has called on Christians around the world to take up together the challenges of peace, unity and costly discipleship. The Forum connects the broadest range of global Christianity. Its third global gathering took place from 24-27 April in the Colombian capital Bogata. Some 251 church leaders from 55 nations took part in the event, representing almost all streams of global Christianity – including from the Anglican Communion.
“Against the backdrop of growing division in the world, the ‘meeting itself became a message’ of careful listening and respectful engagement across barriers of old enmities and historic separations,” the World Council of Churches said.
“In recognition of the churches of the host nation, the Message said participants ‘have listened to, and been inspired by, witnesses working for peace. We pray that the peace process may continue in Colombia and bring hope and reconciliation to those who are suffering and struggling.’”
Anglicans present at the gathering included Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez from Columbia; the former Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, Victoria Matthews; the Bishop of the Cape Coast in the Province of West Africa, Victor Atta Bafoe; and the suffragan Bishop of Toronto in Canada, Jenny Andison.
Also present was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ecumenical advisor, the Revd Dr Will Adam; the director of the Church of Ireland’s Theological Institute, the Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliot; Dr Paulo Ueti, regional co-ordinator for the Anglican Alliance; and the Anglican Communion’s director of Unity, Faith and Order, the Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut.
Other participants came from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and many other Christian World Communions and international Christian organisations.
“The existence of the Global Christian Forum as a place where churches and church leaders who are often strangers to each other to come together in ‘mutual love’ is a realisation of the shared yearning for healing in the wounded body of Christ,” the GCF’s secretary, the Revd Dr Larry Miller, said.
Dr Miller said that GCF participants repeatedly affirmed the Forum as “an indispensable instrument for promoting Christian unity and engaging in conversation on the challenges Christian communities worldwide face today,” the WCC said.
“This gathering . . . has been a moment of tremendously improved relationships between all the participants, which reflects a new era of collaboration among the churches,” Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said. “I think the Global Christian Forum has shown that we do have a way forward, which is that we must not use our differences to stay apart and refuse collaboration. We need to see them as a certain contribution of richness to the whole Christian mission in the world.”
The Associate General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, described the Bogota gathering as “the Global Christian Forum at its best!”
He said: “To hear in small groups the personal faith stories of high-ranking Christians from all confessions – a mark of the GCF – was moving and eye-opening.
“At the same time, plenary presentations by the major expressions of Christianity on the future of ecumenical relations proved how much more friendly our relationships have become. We have matured to the point where we are more eager than ever to overcome major differences, yet without compromising our identities and biblical convictions.” [ACNS]
World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has condemned the suicide bombing attacks at three separate churches in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, last Sunday.
The East Java police revealed that separate explosions had taken place at Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic Church, Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church and Surabaya Pentecostal Church in and around Surabaya. The death toll from the attacks has reportedly risen to 11 people, while at least 40 others have been injured.
Dr Tveit offered “heartfelt condolences to the people who lost family members and friends".
He added, “It is shocking that this attack was directed against people who were gathered for worship, and that this attack comes on the heels of ongoing violence and persecution. In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence."
The WCC has appealed to Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, to religious leaders and to governments across the region “to act swiftly and boldly to safeguard the fundamental religious rights of worshippers of all faiths, to ensure security in the face of violence and to guarantee justice for all people," adding: "Places of worship representing many different faith traditions have been targets of violence by extremists.“
Dr Tveit said that “government action must be matched by solidarity among Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths as they interact at the local level and together denounce any violent attack.”
He called for prayers, urging the WCC fellowship and others across the world to remain steadfast in their quest for peace and justice for Christians and all who are persecuted.
“Through prayer, action and unity, we can bring a powerful force of love in the wake of terror and violence,” he said.
One of the attacked churches is a parish church of a WCC member church, Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church. [WCC News]