Pope Welcomes New Archbishop of Canterbury

The pope has reaffirmed his desire for stronger ties between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in his first message to the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

The Telegraph reports:

In a message through Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Vatican’s ecumenical chief, he spoke of the long-standing aim of “fully restored ecclesial communion” between the two churches.

The letter promised prayers for the Bishop of Durham and his family and spoke of the “intense spiritual and human friendship” between previous Archbishops and Popes.

Ties between the church in England and the papacy were first severed under Henry VIII and permanently separated under Elizabeth I.

But current relations between the two churches are widely viewed as closer than at any point in the last 400 years.

The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has a strong personal friendship with Pope Benedict, and shares a similar background as a theologian.

Dr Williams’ tenure included Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the UK and last month he was invited by the Pope to address leading Catholic clergy from around the world in Rome.

But Dr Williams recently acknowledged that the impending vote to ordain women as bishops effectively ruled out anything resembling a merger.

Writing on behalf of the Pope, the Cardinal said: “Relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion are a hugely important part of the ecumenical call for all Christians to seek greater fidelity to the Lord’s will, so clearly expressed in his prayer to the Father at the Last Supper ‘that all may be one’.

“For almost 50 years, as you are well aware, there has been a formal theological dialogue which continues to seek a deeper understanding of the great heritage shared by Anglicans and Catholics, as well as the points of divergence which still impede fully restored ecclesial communion.

“During that same time, relations between succeeding Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury have been marked by numerous meetings which have expressed intense spiritual and human friendship, and a shared concern for our gospel witness and service to the human family.

“I am certain that under your leadership those excellent relations will continue to bear fruit, and I look forward to meeting you personally, and to future opportunities to share our common commitment to the cause of Christian Unity, ‘so that the world may believe’.”

 

Israel Will Do Everything for Orthodox Believers – Peres

OBL News:

Jerusalem – Israeli President Shimon Peres said he will always remember Russia’s exceptional role in the victory over fascism.

“I will never forget that Russia together with the allies emerged victorious from World War II, paying the dearest price for the victory – the lives of 30 million citizens who dealt the strongest blow on Nazi Germany and saved the world from a disaster,” Peres told Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on Sunday.

“Therefore, the Red Army deserves the highest praise and honor. That war demonstrated vivid cooperation between the United States, Europe and Russia. Russia indeed saved the world from total annihilation. We will never forget that Russia saved our people, putting an end to gas chambers and crematoriums,” Peres said.

One third of the Jewish people perished in World War II, he said. About half a million Jews served in the Red Army and about 250,000 of them were killed in battles and 160,000 got high military awards and ranks, he said.

Israel profoundly respects the Russian Orthodox Church and other religions, he also said.

“We want to guarantee the safety of this religion, so Orthodox believers could pray according to their canons and rules. We will do everything we can for that and for ensuring their physical and spiritual peace,” he said.

The Russian Patriarch said that Russian-Israeli relations have reached “the highest point in the Israeli state’s history, which is largely due to political change observed in the late 20th century.”

No other non-Slavic country has so many people speaking the Russian language, he said. Following the “wise decision” to scrap visas between Russia and Israel, the number of Russian pilgrims has reached hundreds of thousands, Patriarch Kirill said.

 

49% of UK Anglicans Believe There is a God

Speaking of Godlessness, over at the eChurch blog:

According to a Sunday Times survey conducted by YouGov, of the 546 respondents that considered their religion to be Church of England, only 49% responded positively to the question: I believe there is a God.

The question posed was:  People have different beliefs about God, which of the following best applies to you?

49% I believe there is a God.

26% I do not believe in a God, but do believe there is some sort of spiritual higher power.

10% I do not believe in any sort of God or higher spiritual power.

16% Don’t know.

Hop over to BRIN to see a thorough breakdown of the survey findings.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Faces a Daunting Task in this Godless Country

In the Catholic Herald:

Fraser Nelson’ article about the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev Justin Welby, in the Telegraph last Friday, noted two aspects of our country that still remain in my mind. Referring to Bishop Welby’s predecessor, Rowan Williams, Nelson wrote, “Dr Williams has had to keep the Church alive in one of the least religious countries on earth.” Further on he commented, “…being Christian in Britain now means being part of a minority, and that the Church’s mission is to explain the Word of God to people who have grown up having never heard it.”

I don’t know why the phrase “one of the least religious countries on earth” struck such a chill in my heart. Of course, I know it to be true; you only have to read about the Government’s latest pronouncements on moral matters, follow the statistics of ever-falling church-going numbers, or realise that almost all the people you might bump into in the course of the day “don’t do God” as Alastair Campbell put it so elegantly when he was Tony Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy, to be aware of its obviousness.

The UK today is simply mission territory – just as much as Africa was in the 19th century, but with the added complication that we are a sophisticated, rich, multi-cultural, post-Christian territory rather than a poor, pagan and exploited one. If it is hard for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle, it is surely just as hard to try to evangelise him. In Ireland last week for my brother’s funeral, I was struck forcibly by the contrast with this country when it comes to rituals of mourning. Admittedly we were in a small town on the Cork estuary rather than in a big city, but I had a powerful sense of a community that still retained a religious outlook on life. During the Removal at the undertakers the evening before the following day’s Requiem and burial, the coffin was uncovered in the chapel of rest. The door to the street was also open so that anyone could call by to pay their respects to the dead man and to offer their condolences to the family.

This was not a noisy “wake”; it was both very prayerful and at the same time appropriately sociable. “I’m sorry for your troubles” people said as they came in and greeted the mourners. Over a hundred people visited the undertakers to make their farewells, to share their memories of my brother and to listen to the short prayers offered by a local priest.

Most of them then joined us to walk behind the hearse through the streets to the parish church, where the coffin was placed beside the altar overnight. Passersby stood in respectful silence as our procession moved on its way. The next day, after the Requiem Mass, it was the same. Those who attended it walked slowly behind the hearse through the town towards the cemetery. Again, the general public stopped its business to mark the solemnity of a local man’s journey to God; a Christian community acknowledging the death of one of its members.

It made me think that you can tell whether a society is religious or not by the way it marks death. Over here, “the least religious country on earth”, death is hidden, not open; a private, not a community event; an affront to the bustle and business of the living. In Ireland, still a country of deep religious sensibilities despite the weakened authority of the Church, death is integrated into life: the necessary gateway to the life of the world to come. An Englishman who contacted me after hearing of my brother’s death told me he wished people would live by Christian principles as it would make life kinder all round, but that he had “a problem believing in life after death”. In Ireland people are still open to the profound mysteries of faith; death is an event to be marked by reverence, not merely respect. Here, funerals are so often neo-pagan celebrations of life, characterised by beer bottles left at the graveside. The new Archbishop of Canterbury is facing a daunting task.