The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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The prayer of Christ that his disciples ‘may be one’ (John 17:21) will be heard in many churches around the world during this week of prayer for Church unity which begins today.

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There exists an ever growing awareness and realisation among Christians that division does no service to the Church’s witness to Christ before the world. Disunity among themselves is clearly not in keeping with Christ’s wishes for those who bear the name of Christian.

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The tragedies and complicated upheavals of history have caused deep wounds to the Body of Christ. Western Europe, and Great Britain in particular, experienced the trauma of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, while some centuries earlier the split took place between the Churches of the East and West, which gave rise the various Orthodox Churches.

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Other divisions and smaller independent Christian communities are there for all to see in our cities and town.

While we may lament this regrettable state of affairs, a great deal of movement has been taking place in the last fifty years among Christians of all denominations resulting in coming together for prayer and worship, not to mention extensive cooperation among the Churches in social outreach.

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Much good has been happening quietly and without fuss, especially in service to the materially poor of our society.  Such unity of purpose in our times is surely a blessing of the Holy Spirit for which we should be grateful.

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A further encouraging feature of ecumenism today is the warm and friendly relations to be found among Church leaders. Regular meetings both at local, regional and national level continue apace, and late last year the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales joined with their Anglican counterparts for an overnight gathering at Lambeth Palace, also attended by Archbishop Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain.

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Catholic and Anglican Bishops gathering together in prayer and discussion is a sure sign of goodwill and desire to walk a common Christian path together.

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The Catholic Church applauds such progress and is keen for Catholics to play an active part in all that pertains to advancing Church unity. Obvious and well-publicised differences of doctrine and practice remain however, to which there are no facile and quick solutions.

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Without surrendering our own faith convictions and what we believe to be Christian truth, we must remain open and disposed to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit as he gently leads us forward towards greater conformity with Christ’s prayerful desire to his Father that his followers be one.

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Like Our Blessed Lady in her response to the Angel’s invitation, may we too in common prayer let God’s word and saving plan take root in our hearts that each one of us may play our part in bringing the world to believe in God, and in Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

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As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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