Friday 15 March 2013

So we have a new Pope. The announcement of his name stunned the crowd waiting in St Peter’s Square in Rome as it must have done in many places. I am told that Catholic priests are required to retire at 75, yet here was a man of 76 years being made the head of their Church. I think the world would have been more impressed at the appointment of a younger man.

Having said that, there are reports that he is more willing to engage in dialogue with non Catholic Christians, particularly Anglicans, and has done so regularly. The Anglican Archbishop in Buenos Aires is stated to meet with him regularly, and he supports joint services, and is ready to be blessed by them.

The crowds waiting to hear the announcement were estimated by Sky news to be 70,000, many of whom waited most of the day and in pouring rain. The dominance given by television channels and press to the appointment indicates the authority of the Roman Church, and indeed, commentators have pointed out that influences greatly people’s perception of Christianity and sets the agenda.

Other denominations and independent Churches may not agree with some of the beliefs and practices, and in fact some of their core beliefs are purely theological and not practised by the members, but essentially those beliefs are such that committed Christians would accept. The Roman Church does not have any public disagreement over abortion, homosexuality, women priests, and is committed (officially) to the authority of Scripture, although not universally adhered to.

A further asset is that the Roman Catholic Church is not burdened financially or practically by a large Synod such as adopted by the Church of England. The Synod is largely a talking shop costing millions of pounds, producing little (if anything)of benefit, and whilst there are undoubtedly men and women truly wanting to serve the Church, there are too many who are committee minded orientated and are there as more of a hobby.

I certainly hope that we may see a more sincere and realistic approach to Church unity; at present we have a mockery in having weeks of Christian Unity when some of us are considered second class Christians. If there is to be sincerity in believing in unity, one Church cannot exclude other Christians from sharing in the principal sacrament of Holy Communion.

We should all wish the new Pope well and pray for him, and also pray that his papacy may lead to a more sincere unity of Churches.

To-morrow I hope to write a sermon on unity.

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