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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Pope Francis at All Saints: we recognize one another as we truly are, brothers and sisters in Christ

The joy of the day can be found on the Pope’s face. Father Jonathan Boardman, the Chaplain of All Saints Anglican Church in Rome, several years ago, invited the Pope to come to the church as part of the 200th anniversary of the Anglican community in the city. It is a tribute to Fr Jonathan that this visit has come about and we are thankful to him, his Churchwardens and the many volunteers who prepared for the day and who took part in the service. Indeed the occasion has taken on an international and ecumenical importance.

It was an unprecedented moment. This was the first time a Pope has visited an Anglican parish church. Pope John Paul II visited Canterbury cathedral. Pope Benedict visited Westminster Abbey. But the visit of Pope Francis to All Saints Church on Sunday has made ecumenical history. And from the smile on the pope’s face it was clear that he was delighted to be making that history.

During the service the Pope blessed an icon of our Saviour. He referred to this icon in his homily. “Christ looks at us, and his gaze upon us is one of salvation, of love and compassion. It is the same merciful gaze which pierced the hearts of the Apostles, who left the past behind and began a journey of new life, in order to follow and proclaim the Lord. In this sacred image, as Jesus looks upon us, he seems also to call out to us, to make an appeal to us: “Are you ready to leave everything from your past for me? Do you want to make my love known, my mercy?””

He then led the congregation in repeating their baptismal promises, and sprinkled them with blessed water to remind us of the unity given to us all in our baptism.

Also during his homily the Pope said “As Catholics and Anglicans, we are humbly grateful that, after centuries of mutual mistrust, we now recognize that the fruitful grace of Christ is at work in others….. At times, progress on our journey towards full communion may seem slow and uncertain, but today we can be encouraged by our gathering. For the first time, a Bishop of Rome is visiting your community. It is a grace and also a responsibility: the responsibility of strengthening our ties, to the praise of Christ, in the service of the Gospel and of this city.”As a first act in strengthening those ties at the end of the service our Anglican parish of All Saints signed a twinning agreement with the RC parish of Ognisanti in the city, precisely to explore ways jointly to worship, study, and serve the needy.

Fr Jonathan reads the twinning agreement
At the end of the service the pope spontaneously answered three questions put to him by members of the congregation. The answers he provided are very rich indeed. The full text and that of his homily can be found here and here.

As someone who has worked both on the international theological dialogue wth the Roman Catholic Church as a previous Co-Secretary of ARCIC, and who now is the Co-Chairman of the international unity and mission commission, IARCCUM, I warmed to the Pope’s answer to a question about theological dialogue and joint mission and work. Both are necessary. He said, “the theological dialogue must be sought also to seek the roots . . . on so many things on which we are not yet in agreement . . . However, this can’t be done in a laboratory: it must be done walking, along the way. We are on the way and on the way we also have these discussions….The ecumenical dialogue is done on the way, because the ecumenical dialogue is a path, and theological things are discussed on the way”.

So we continue on that way together with fresh hope and encouragement.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Fr Tony Currer, "our man at the Vatican" becomes an ecumenical canon of Southwark

On Sunday evening in London, the Revd Tony Currer, who is the Official for Relations with Anglicans and Methodists at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was made an Ecumenical Canon of Southwark Cathedral. For Anglicans Fr Tony is very much "our man at the Vatican" and is a close colleague on much of our ecumenical work, including IARCCUM, the International Anglican Roman-Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which I co-chair, and ARCIC. He is co-secretary to both commissions.

But beyond these two major international commissions, Canon Currer is key to all our work at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. A good example of this is his invaluable support and guidance to us as we prepare for the visit of Pope Francis to All Saints Church in Rome this coming Sunday.

We congratulate Canon Currer on this appointment. It speaks of our gratitude as Anglicans for his care for our international relations with the Catholic Church, and is also sign of our deep friendship with him.

Canon Currer (2nd from left) with Anglican ecumenical colleagues


Monday, 20 February 2017

Malta: a patronal festival marked by joy, ecumenical life and a new Archdeacon installed in her canonry


There are very few places in our diocese directly connected to events in the New Testament: Rome, Athens, Thessaloniki of course. But also significantly Malta, the home of one of our Pro-Cathedrals.

The Patronal Feast of our Pro-Cathedral of St Paul in Valletta, Malta, is the feast of Shipwreck of St Paul. St Paul is considered to be the spiritual father of the Maltese and his shipwreck recorded in The Acts of the Apostles Chapters 27 and 28. He stayed 3 months on the island bringing the Christian message to the inhabitants.The Feast is a national holiday in Malta.

The celebrations are very Mediterranean, with a moving procession of a (2 ton) statue of the Apostle through the streets of Old Valletta. It is a wonderful expression of what sociologists of religion call "popular religiosity". For me it was a clear sign of deep, joyous even infectious faith among the people of the island. In fact, several of the Anglicans present remarked that it was a visible way to reach out to the people with the Christian message. Perhaps a technique that Anglicans might adopt in our evangelisation strategy? The Anglican community is a welcome participant in the events, as warm ecumenical relations have been nurtured over the years with the Roman Catholic Church.

In our own Pro-Cathedral, the feast was celebrated at the Sunday Mass on 12 February. The Revd Canon Jeremy Haselock, Sub-Dean of Norwich Cathedral was the guest preacher. A tribute to the ecumenical work of the Chancellor of St Paul's, the Revd Canon Simon Godfrey, was the presence of the RC Archbishop of Malta, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, in choir habit for our entire festive eucharist. I invited him to share with me in the final blessing. Several other senior clergy from the RC Archdiocese also attended. A choir of about 40 members sung the liturgy.

The Revd Canon Jeremy Haselock
At the start of the Mass, the Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, the Venerable Vickie Sims, was installed in her canon's stall, that of St Helena, in the Pro-Cathedral, by the Chancellor. The Archdeacon is also the Chaplain of All Saints Milan and it was her first visit to the Pro-Cathedral and therefore was an important time to mark and celebrate her wider ministry in Italy and Malta.

St Paul's Pro-Cathedral

Archdeacon Vickie Sims receives a blessing for her work as Archdeacon of Italy and Malta
The Venerable Vickie Sims
Following the service the annual "Shipwreck Lecture" was given. The lecturer this year was the Reverend Professor Marius Zerrafa OP. His topic was the theft and return of Caravaggio’s “St. Jerome Writing”, a work of the great master which hangs in St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta.

Father Zerafa is the former Director of the Malta Museums. The painting was stolen on New Year's Eve 1984. Fr Zerafa negotiated with the thieves for its return for almost a year! It was a thrilling story. Fr Zerafa said, "At times it was easier to deal with the Mafia, than with Ministers and Monsignori …!” It was an account worthy of a Hollywood film. (I think the clergy and people of the Pro-Cathedral would make a great supporting cast!)

Professor Marius Zerrafa
Caravaggio's "St Jerome Writing"

St Paul remarked (Acts 28.2) that when he was marooned on Malta the natives showed him "unusual kindness". Certainly any visit to our Pro-Cathedral, named after the Apostle, will be an experience of that kindness.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Chair of House of Clergy writes to the clergy of the diocese

Fr Tuomas Mäkipää
The Revd Tuomas Mäkipää is Chaplain of St Nicholas's Helsinki, Area Dean for Finland, a member of General Synod and Chair of the House of Clergy of this Diocese in Europe. Yesterday the General Synod motion to take note of the House of Bishops' Report on "Marriage and Same Sex Relationships After the Shared Conversations" was lost in the House of Clergy, and therefore the motion fell.

Fr Tuomas has written this helpful explanatory note below to the clergy of the diocese, and asks that it be shared with the members of their congregations.


Dear fellow Clergy

I believe I do not need to explain in detail the very mixed response to the House of Bishops' Report MARRIAGE AND SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS AFTER THE SHARED CONVERSATIONS.
'Taking note' is a synodical procedure which is a way to introduce documents to the Synod thus allowing them to be used as a source, or basis, for future work. These reports usually contain suggestions and recommendations, sometimes they might include more detailed ways forward.

Normally, there is nothing special in taking note.

About a week before the Synod, it was clear that the vote on GS2055 would be seen differently. It was given much wider meaning, as was to the Report itself. Some hoped the Report to confirm the Church's teaching on marriage and others were disappointed by the prospect that the report would stop all discussion or any possible change. Many in the LGBTI+ community saw the report as hurtful and discriminating. Some who hold conservative view on marriage were in support of the report and considered it as a good basis for further work in Synod based on maximum freedom.

Not depending on how the report, or the vote was perceived, from the synodical governance point of view the situation was quite clear: it was only a report to feed in to the further debates and proceedings. Legality does not always cling with reality: words do carry different message to different audiences, a working document intended to Synod for debate can be seen as a message to wider church. And as the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed out, we are talking about human beings, not 'problems' or 'issues'.

The motion to take note was lost in the House of Clergy. In order for the Synod to take note, the motion should have been carried in all three houses. The question now is 'what happens next?'
The report, GS2055, can not be brought back to the Synod during this synod's lifetime. However, it is possible for the Bishops to introduce a new report. it is likely that they will do precisely that in due course. This vote was by no means the end of discussion. On the contrary the debate in the Assembly Hall was graceful, profoundly deep and honest. I am encouraged that the Bishops can now work, with a clear support from the Synod, to create a more clearer roadmap which will allow us to move forward.

Taking note of the Report would have not changed the current position of the Church of England on Marriage or same-sex relationships. Nor is its defeat in the General Synod to be interpreted as a sign of any legal change in the Church of England. The current guidelines still apply. The doctrine of the Church of England remains to be that marriage is a life long union of one man with one woman.

The Church's teaching on working against any kind of discrimination, homophobia and stigmatization of any people, as set out in the Lambeth resolution I.10 (1998) and Some Issues in Human Sexuality (2003).The recommendations and findings of the Pilling Report (2013) urges us to show pastoral support and love to all people whatever they sexual or gender identity might be.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has published the following statement on his website:
"No person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people. 
How we deal with the real and profound disagreement - put so passionately and so clearly by many at the Church of England’s General Synod debate on marriage and same-sex relationships today - is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.
To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual. 
We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence.
The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be. As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.
The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ - all of us, without exception, without exclusion."

I have shared this message with David Coulston, the Chair of the Diocesan House of Laity, who asks you to share this with your congregations.

Tuomas Mäkipää
Chair of the Diocesan House of Clergy
Member of the General Synod

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

St Mark's Florence, a centre of light, mission and culture

St Mark's in Florence has been serving the English language population of Tuscany and the many visitors to the area for over 132 years. The Sunday Sung High Mass is at the centre of the parish's active liturgical life. But St Mark’s is also home to a thriving and extensive music and cultural scene, with its own choir (St Mark's Cantorum), St Mark's Opera, many concerts performed by visiting choirs and musicians, and literary events.

The parish is promoting a particularly interesting project entitled "Dignity through Art". Through this project, the needs of those in Florence who are marginalised, homeless or needy are given a voice and a platform for their skills to be shared, and for their stories to be heard. Many, whose voices are silenced by their circumstances, are given, through this project, space to recover their dignity as human persons.

On 5 February, I joined the congregation for the feast of Candlemas and administered the sacrament of confirmation to some members. It was a joyful liturgy. Some highlights can be seen in the YouTube clip below, prepared by Bob Blesse, one of the members of the parish. One of the confirmation candidates, who is a portrait artist, had prepared a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was blessed during the liturgy.

The Chaplain of St Mark's, the Revd William Lister, also looks after the St Peter's, Sienna and Holy Cross, Bologna. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Archdeaconry of Gibraltar - growth in faith and numbers continues

Sessions of the Gibraltar Archdeaconry Synod were held from 31 Jan to 3 Feb in Torrevieja, Spain. The Archdeaconry includes, Spain, (with the Balearic and Canary Islands), Portugal (with Madeira), Morocco and Andorra. The Archdeaconry continues to grow; this year the first resident priest and parish reps from the new congregation of St James's Fuerteventura participated.

Sessions covered a range of issues from support for clergy facing problems with addiction and alcohol, communications and media strategy, environmental issues, the Pilgrim Course, and safeguarding. Bible Studies were led by the Revd Dr Richard Briggs of Cranmer Hall, Durham. Bishop Jack Nicholls (retired from Sheffield) provided inspirational reflections on mission and the Church's role.

During the course of the Synod, Paul Turner was admitted by Archdeacon Geoff Johnston to the office of Reader and licensed for this lay ministry in the parish of St Christopher's Costa Azahar. Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Elaine Labourel, was on hand for this important moment.
Paul Turner is admitted and licensed as a Reader
 At the close of the synod the feast of Candlemas was celebrated in a nearby RC parish church. The members of the synod then processed with their lit candles from the Church through the streets to the hotel where the synod was being held.

Here is a brief YouTube clip of the conclusion of the service:

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Ministry in Tangier includes dealing with body-bags of parishioners

Fr Simon with one of his African migrant parishioners
Since the late 1990s a growing phenomenon in Morocco has been the arrival of vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees. Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in Casablanca and Tangier have been faced with this challenge, and now a new partnership is emerging between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tangier and our historic Anglican Church of St Andrew in the city.

A meeting with some migrants in St Andrew's
Because of its proximity to Spain - just twelve miles across treacherous straits - and with a land borders close by to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, Tangier has become very much a magnet to thousands of young Sub-Saharan Africans seeking a better life.  With memories of civil wars, drought, poverty, persecution and the devastation caused by the Ebola Crisis fresh in their minds, these young people - many of them illiterate - make an extremely dangerous journey up the West Coast of Africa, or trekking across deserts into Morocco.  The majority have no papers, no form of documentation, very little money but they are all empowered by a great hope for a better life and the belief that they will be able to finance their families back home.  Many of them seem to have misread a world map and believe that the Straits of Gibraltar and the Tarifa crossing present no obstacle to reaching their goal - Europe!

Spain (left) and Morocco (right) - the 12 mile straits
As well as trying to swimming highly dangerous waters or climbing heavily guarded fences to Spanish territory, some are now leaving Morocco for points east to try to buy passage on the overcrowded, often deadly boats trying to cross the Mediterranean from countries like Libya. Many of of our African parishioners, on their perilous journey north to Morocco have been mistreated by authorities, exploited by smugglers, robbed and some raped - but their dream of the Promised Land of Europe proves to be irresistible. So the movement of peoples continues.

The Anglican Chaplain in St Andrew's Tangier, the Revd Canon Simon Stephens OBE, who has been in post for a year has quickly built links with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tangiers and the diocesan offices of Caritas. Together they have been coordinating efforts and indeed even taking the funerals of those who have died in trying to make dangerous crossings. The collaboration is growing as are the needs. Fr Simon says, "As we consider the needs of these young people on the move, thought must also be given to the pastoral care of those working alongside them.  Both physically and emotionally many of them are living on the edge. And we would do well to remember that dealing with body-bags also takes its toll on the living, seeking to serve them!”

A supper meeting with (RC) Archbishop Santiago (3rd from rt) and some of his clergy
I have opened an exploration with Anglican mission agency USPG about this ecumenical collaboration, to see how we can work more closely together with our ecumenical partners.

African parishioners at St Andrew's

Berber market outside the Church on Sunday

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Senior Staff explore the unknown factors in making clergy appointments

The Archdeacons and Area Deans work closely with the Bishops and the Appointments Secretary in all that pertains to clergy appointments in this Diocese in Europe. A training day for them was recently led by Claire Pedrick, author of an invaluable book entitled How to Make Great Appointments in the Church. 

It was encouraging to hear so many of our Area Deans and Archdeacons agreeing that the present system and process of appointments is largely working well, and is well supported by our staff, particularly Catherine Jackson, the Appointments Secretary.  From the wide international experience of our Senior Staff, there were clear testimonies that the Diocese in Europe is much better at the complicated business of appointments than many other dioceses and other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Ms Catherine Jackson, Appointments Secretary

Nevertheless, with all aspects of life in the Church, there is always room to improve some things, and to learn some new approaches. This recent training day follows on one given about 3 years ago and and this time concentrated on "managing the unknown" factors in appointing priests to our churches. Through various exercises and small discussions, the participants were encouraged to see the appointment of a priest from many different angles, and through many different eyes - from the appointee herself/himself, to that of the spouse if there is one, the Church Council, and even the wider Diocese. There was even space given to consider how God might view our appointments!

Area Dean of Germany Fr Ken Dimmick (l) and Area Dean of Belgium Fr Stephen Murray consider a particular view of our appointment process