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Thursday, 4 August 2016

An interesting ecclesial challenge, embraced with joy in Italy

Fr Luciano, Mother Teodora, Archdeacon Sims and Faustina Bruno
I have always maintained that the Diocese in Europe demonstrates a creativity and a flexibility in our life and mission which could teach many things to other parts of the Church of England. One example, for instance, is our work to build up and nurture a minority community within our existing minority church reality in Italy.

Two years ago a group of Italian speaking Old Catholic communities, priests and people, which had been under the oversight of the Old Catholic Bishop of Switzerland were released by him and directed to seek oversight from Anglicans. (The Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht are in communion with the Anglican Churches, and have been since 1931). One of the former Old Catholic clergy and one or two communities placed themselves under the Episcopal Bishop of the Convocation in Europe, Pierre Whalon. Others sought incorporation into the Church of England Diocese in Europe.

As can be imagined the former Old Catholic communities and priests have been feeling rather insecure about their future, and have a host of anxieties, questions and concerns arising from what for some has been a feeling of being abandoned by their former Church. In their journey into the Diocese in Europe, therefore, we are working on bringing their constitutional and synodical life into alignment with Church of England norms while maintaining their distinct Old Catholic identity within what is now their larger new family.

Fr Jonathan Boardman and Mother Teodora
I began this work towards their integration into the Church of England with the then Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, Fr Jonathan Boardman, and have continued with his successor Archdeacon Vickie Sims. The Area Dean of Italy, Fr William Lister, and our own Director of Ordinands, Fr William Gulliford are also engaged with me in this process.

Last week a meeting was held in Rome, with two of the former Old Catholic priests, Madre Teodora Tosatti and Padre Luciano Bruno, Archdeacon Sims and myself. We made progress in this gentle task of integrating these sister communities into the Chiesa d'Inghilterra in Italia, caring for the unique Italian language and cultural heritage of these former Old Catholics with their own rich liturgical tradition, while welcoming them into our wider family.

Former Old Catholic communities exist in Perugia, Rome, Florence, and Sicily. New Italian language work is also being nurtured in Parma and Naples. There is also one vocations to the sacred ministry, and some enquiries about the same, so this will be a creative dimension to our already active ministry in Italy, indeed, perhaps even a fresh expression?

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story, providing good practice in ecumenism. This reminded of the Anglican European Provincial Consultation. Are we continuing that exploration as well?