In an address at Coventry Cathedral on Sunday to mark the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, highlighted how shared unity prompts us to remember “our brothers and sisters of the suffering Church in the Holy Land and the Middle East.”
He referenced the work of
“organisations such as the Friends of the Holy Land” which “draw
together Christians from all our Churches in prayerful and practical
support of these ancient Christian communities to whom we owe so much.”
charity works in the field of housing, micro finance, the distribution
of food and clothing and hosting pilgrimages by overseas visitors
involving links with local communities.
Catholic Bishops from
Europe, South Africa and North America have just returned from the Holy
Land – a visit which focused on prayer, pilgrimage and advocacy for
justice and peace.
The Archbishop of Birmingham was invited to
preach at Coventry Cathedral Solemn Evensong on Sunday 19 January to
celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Right Reverend Dr
Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry led the service.
Bernard Longley is the Co-Chairman of ARCIC III. ARCIC III is the third
phase of the international dialogue between the Anglican Communion and
the Catholic Church. It originally began in response to the Second
Vatican Council and as a result of the visit of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, to Pope Paul VI in 1966.
The full text follows:
Do justice…love kindness…walk humbly with your God.
I want first to express my thanks to the Dean and Chapter and to Bishop
Christopher for inviting me to join you at Evensong and to preach on
this Sunday during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. I also
thank Canon Garry Byrne and the Roman Catholic clergy and parishioners
of the city for the fellowship and friendship that they have deepened
with the Cathedral over many years. Whatever the Christian family to
which we belong we are already united as brothers and sisters because we
have all received baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. Yet we also realise that through our baptism the Lord challenges
us to contribute to the fulfilment of his prayer that they may all be
It seems particularly significant at the outset of this
year when we shall commemorate the centenary of the First World War that
we gather in this Cathedral with its historic and universally
recognised ministry of prayer for peace and reconciliation in the world.
The work of Christian unity is directly linked with the search for
justice and peace that lies at the heart of the Church’s mission. The
Church is called to demonstrate that unanimity – a oneness of soul –
that characterises the Kingdom of God and lies at the service of the
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel – Pope Francis said: Commitment to ecumenism responds to the prayer of the Lord Jesus that
“they may all be one”. The credibility of the Christian message would
be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions…We must
never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This
means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting
aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all
seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face. Trusting others is an art and
peace is an art. Jesus told us: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. In taking
up this task, also among ourselves, we fulfil the ancient prophecy:
“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares”. In this perspective,
ecumenism can be seen as a contribution to the unity of the human
The prophet Micah urges us to live our lives of faith with integrity,
so that what we profess with our mouths is reflected in our actions. He
has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of
you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with
your God? Part of that humility is our recognition that something is
lacking in our Christian communities for as long as we are not fully at
one with each other in our belief and witness to Christ.
is that our prayer for the unity of the Church, reflecting the prayer of
Jesus himself in St John’s Gospel that they may all be one, is an
authentic expression of our Christian identity according to the
different confessional families to which we belong. For me it is
authentically Catholic to work and pray for the Church’s unity, it is
not an option. If I neglect to do this, or I am indifferent, there is
something missing from my life and my journey of faith as a Catholic.
Luke’s account of the happenings along the road to Emmaus in our Second
Lesson tonight remind us that we are constantly on a journey, a
pilgrimage together which has certain characteristics. Biblical scholars
have highlighted the key moments in this extraordinary meeting between
the two disciples and the risen Christ so soon after the resurrection.
As they walk along side by side we may hear echoes of Micah’s walk
humbly with your God.
The first thing to strike us is that the
disciples were not aware that it was Jesus who had come to walk by their
side – but their eyes were kept from recognising him. Their outlook on
life was limited, blinkered, and it is only when they respond to the
questions posed by Jesus that they begin to reflect on what they have
experienced. This is moment of repentance.
Repentance is a
change of outlook that brings renewal – it opens us to the grace of
redemption won for us by the death and resurrection of Christ. In
Christian Unity Week we once again set our course along the shared
pathway of faith to prepare and steady ourselves for the long pilgrimage
leading us towards the gift of new life in the risen Lord. For that
pilgrimage to be fruitful it has to engage us as Christians and Churches
together, not in a superficial sense but at the deepest level of our
being – it has to be truly transforming.
The second key moment
along the road to Emmaus comes through exploring the Scriptures in the
light of Christ’s presence. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
We are called to unite ourselves around the Word of God and to allow its
powerful message to transform our lives and our Churches.
Evangelii Gaudium - The Joy of the Gospel – Pope Francis also recognises
the unity that comes from our focus on the Word of God and our need to
share our insights with each other:
How many important things
unite us! If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the
Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another! It is not just about
being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the
Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us…Through
an exchange of gifts, the Spirit can lead us ever more fully into truth
The Word of God reveals the transformation to
which we ourselves are called in Christ. Time and again our Christian
faith reminds us that this invitation is to enter into and share the
life of God, not merely to look on and wonder at it. We are captured by
the vision of God’s goodness, truth and beauty and drawn to it as our
own fulfilment and destiny, and that destiny is shaped by the character
of the relationship we have with God in Christ and with one another.
third key moment in the Gospel story is the moment of recognition when
the disciples’ eyes were opened and they recognised him. They understood
what they had experienced and, although the day was almost over, that
same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. When we encounter
Christ together we too find that we see things differently and we want
to change direction, especially reaching out to those in need around us.
our shared faith and a renewed focus we need to look at the world – and
at this City of Coventry - not chiefly as an enemy that is indifferent
or even hostile to the message of the Gospel but as the place where
God’s salvation has already reached into people’ lives through the love
of his Son Jesus Christ. The Scriptures remind us that God so loved the
world that he sent his only Son so that we might be healed and saved. As
a demonstration of our Christian faith we need above all to find ever
fresh ways to show the love of God for the world and this city that he
made and cherishes.
The unity that we already enjoy prompts us
to remember our brothers and sisters of the suffering Church in the Holy
Land and the Middle East. Organisations such as the Friends of the Holy
Land can draw together Christians from all our Churches in prayerful
and practical support of these ancient Christian communities to whom we
owe so much.
One of the challenges we face as Churches in the
Midlands is not so much that the truth and beauty of God and the values
offered by Christianity are being ignored or rejected, but that our own
attempts to express or share our faith fail to move people sufficiently,
especially when they see our divisions. Only by allowing ourselves to
be transformed together can we hope to give a more credible witness to
the Christ who wants to walk beside us.