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Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ecumenical history made in Palermo

Not only is Holy Cross Church, Palermo, one of the architectural beauties in our diocese, it is also a place of active ecumenical and interfaith engagement. Excellent relations are maintained with the Roman Catholics, Waldensians and Orthodox, as well as with representatives of Muslim and Jewish communities. 

On 7 November, I believe that ecumenical history may have been made when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Palermo, Corrado Lorefice, preached the sermon at the installation of the new Chaplain of Holy Cross, the Revd Dr James Hadley. Certainly this is a first in this diocese and in the Church of England itself it may well be unprecedented for a Roman Catholic Archbishop to take such a significant role in the installation of an Anglican parish priest! 

Many other local clergy were present for the mass, including the Orthodox Archimandrite for Southern Italy, representing Metropolitan Policarpo of Italy.

The depth of ecumenical commitment was further demonstrated when Monsignor Lorefice gave Fr James a gift to mark the occasion. The nature of the gift was very significant: a chalice and paten. 

Fr James, the new priest, with his mother

Monday, 22 November 2021

Sant'Alberto di Trapani community celebrates 5 years

The indigenisation of Church of England life can be clearly be seen in the community of Sant'Alberto di Trapani in Randazzo, Sicily, a congregation which has recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. Saint Alberto di Trapani was a Carmelite priest in Sicily who died in 1307. He was known for his making himself poor in order to maintain a friendship and connection to the poor he served. The spirit of Sant'Alberto can be felt in this fledgling Anglican community in Randazzo, which, under the guidance of their priest, Fr Giovanni La Rosa, is seeking to be a place of friendship and service to all, especially the marginalised. The congregation uses very humble rented premises, but the place is filled with the beauty and love of a Christian community. 

The celebration on 6 November was close to the Italian Day of National Unity and the Armed Forces, which commemorates the end of WWI for Italy. So many members of the Bersaglieri veterans, a special sharpshooter infantry group within the Italian military, were present for commemorative ceremonies after the mass. They added to the local flair of the occasion with their distinctive hats adorned with black capercaillie feathers!  

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

On the road again

Casablanca: St John the Evangelist

I often say to the congregations of the Diocese that the most important thing I do as a bishop is make new disciples and strengthen existing ones through the sacraments of initiation. In the Church of England it is a norm that the bishop presides at the baptism of adults, so that at the one liturgy the fulness of the initiation sacraments can be celebrated, as indeed they once were in the ancient Church: baptism, confirmation (or chrismation/laying on of hands) and Holy Communion. Those are very special and powerful moments indeed. 

Oslo: St Edmund's

But more frequently, my episcopal visits involve confirmations alone for those baptised in infancy, confirmation being the one part of Christian Initiation which has been reserved to bishops in the tradition of the Church of England. But even when separated in time from baptism, the sacrament of confirmation is understood to be a continuance of what has begun in baptism, celebrating what the Holy Spirit has gently unfolded in the Christian's life, and praying God's grace to strengthen the disciple's life in Christ.     

Helsinki: St Nicholas's

As we all know, one of the dimensions of Church life that has been restricted, sadly, during these times of the COVID19 pandemic has been the sacramental life itself. In many communities across the diocese people have been waiting patiently for it to be safe (and legal) once again to gather to celebrate the sacraments, including those who have been prepared for confirmation. 

Madrid: St George's

It is now possible to travel, with due precautions, to many countries, and so September and October have been busy months, "catching up" in many cases with those celebrations. Joyful gatherings these past weeks have been held in Casablanca, Oslo, Helsinki and Madrid. 

Episcopal hands become quite slippery with the combination of Chrism and sanitizing gel, but the sacramental rite, which requires the physical laying on of hands, is happening once again. Praise God.