MU’s ‘compassion and courage’ affirmed in 125th anniversary service
Mothers’ Union is about Christian compassion , love and courage, the congregation was told at a recent service of Choral Evensong in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of MU in Ireland.
The MU in Ireland was founded in 1887 by Annabelle Hayes – wife of the then rector of Raheny, Dublin – in Raheny rectory.
Addressing MU members and office-bearers from all over Ireland who filled the Cathedral to capacity, the Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, the Rt Revd Ken Clarke – who is also MU Central Chaplain – affirmed that the organisation was making a decisive and positive impact right around the globe.
50th ANNIVERSARY OF VATICAN II OPENING
For those who grew up in an earlier Ireland dominated by the reactionary Roman Catholic Church of Pope Pius XII, and particularly memorable for the pronouncements of ultra-conservative prelates such as the late Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin, the election in 1958 of the genial Pope John XXIII – then all of 77 years of age – with his warmth of character and openness to believers of other traditions was a most welcome development. Pope John’s announcement, within a few weeks of his election, of what in Roman Catholic terms was an ecumenical (universal) Council, to consider a wide range of issues to do with the renewal of the Church and its relations with other Christians and with the modern world, was at the time an astonishing development and one that gave rise to great expectations. The word that summed it all up was aggiornamento, the opening up of the Church to modernity.
On Thursday next, 11th October, it will be 50 years since the Council was officially opened and began its three years of deliberations, first under John XXIII and then under his successor, Pope Paul VI. Now is therefore a good time to consider, however briefly here, the achievements of that Council and the extent to which its aims, not least in relation to Christian unity, have been achieved.
The theological achievements of the Council are evident in a series of great documents, including the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church which reflected the creative attempt of the Council fathers (all the Roman Catholic bishops in the world) to use biblical terms rather than juridical categories to describe the Church. This in turn allowed theologians and Church people of other traditions to feel that they were, for the first time, talking the same kind of language as their Roman Catholic counterparts, even if significant differences of interpretation still remained.
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation restated the relationship of Scripture and Tradition in a manner nearer to the ‘Scripture, Reason and Tradition’ emphasis in classical Anglican teaching, making a dialogue on the remaining differences of emphasis more meaningful.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy made possible vast changes in the manner in which the Roman Catholic Church worshipped, including the introduction of the vernacular, mirroring the achievements of the Reformation four hundred years earlier, and a fresh emphasis on the participation of the laity in the eucharistic celebration.
The Council also promulgated Decrees (documents on practical questions) on a variety of importants matters, ranging from the pastoral duties of bishops through the missionary activity of the Church to the apostolate of the laity, and ecumenism. In addition, Declarations (documents on particular issues) were made on religious freedom, Christian education, and the Church’s attitude towards non-Christian religions. Particularly important was a more positive approach to those of the Jewish faith after centuries of hostility.
Undoubtedly, the Second Vatican Council brought about a new relationship between Roman Catholicism and other forms of the Christian tradition; the Vatican’s earlier rejection of ecumenism was replaced by a warm acceptance and the cultivation of good relationships with other Churches. So far as Anglicans are concerned, one fruit of this was the setting up of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), of which the late Archbishop Henry McAdoo was the first Anglican Co-Chairman. Agreed Statements on various issues have been produced by successive forms of ARCIC which, however, have not been evaluated without criticism by the Church of Ireland through its General Synod. The Response of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland to the Final Report of ARCIC-I, produced in 1986, although constructive, was in some respects highly critical, and so was a more recent evaluation of an AR CIC-II document on Mary. However, it has to be said that the Vatican has itself at times been noticeably cautious over the ARCIC Agreed Statements.
Although the years since Vatican II have brought about positive change in relations between the Churches, one notes that certain conservative tendencies have been increasingly evident within the Roman Catholic Church, evidenced, for example, by some very unsatisfactory statements in the publication, One Bread One Body, produced in 1998 by the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Particularly unhelpful has been the intransigent attitude of the Roman Catholic authorities to the question of Anglican orders, where non-recognition has continued to be grounded upon inadequate arguments. The implacable opposition to even the concept of women’s ordination is unhelpful within an ecumenical relationship with Churches where women’s ministry is here to stay. Also, the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to adopt the Revised Common Lectionary, and its promotion of changes in the liturgy which have ignored ecumenical agreements on common texts, do not bode well for future ecumenical collaboration in liturgical matters.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms, conversative curial officials were reputed to have said that it would take 50 years to restore the Church to its previous condition! However, it is surely indisputable that, all in all, the legacy of the Council has been one of progress that is clearly to be seen and greatly to be welcomed.
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Letters to the editor
The Diocese of Harare
Readers of the Gazette will be aware from your coverage of the ongoing difficulties facing the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.
Having been elected Bishop of Harare in 2000, Dr Nolbert Kunonga wished to become Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA). In September 2006, at a provincial synod in Malawi, having realised that he stood no chance, he tried to take the Diocese of Harare out of the Province. This was not legally possible and so he resigned from the Province and started his own church (the Anglican Province of Zimbabwe).
He ordained priests and bishops and made himself archbishop. He has, with the support of the security services and activists from the ruling ZANUPF political party, taken control of all diocesan property in Harare Diocese, even though it is owned by CPCA (cathedral, churches, eight secondary and 14 primary schools, an orphanage, other properties and investments). He has now extended his reach into the Diocese of Manicaland and Masvingo, taking over church properties with the assistance of the police.
The Rt Revd Chad Gandiya has been Bishop of Harare since 2009 and has visited Ireland twice in that time. On taking up his role, he recognised the challenges he was facing and has at times feared for his life.
Last week, he contacted friends and supporters with news that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of the Diocese of Harare in its suit to recover the properties expropriated by Dr Kunonga.
The hearing will take place from 22nd October next and will last that week. Bishop Chad says: “We are appealing for any assistance towards covering our legal bills. Most importantly, we are asking you all to join us in a week of prayer and fasting during the hearing period starting on 22nd October.
“We want to thank you all for journeying with us during this difficult period in the history of our Church.”
Please pray for Bishop Chad and his people. Any donations towards legal expenses may be made via USPG Ireland.
Linda Chambers USPG Ireland Egan House St Michan’s Church Church Street Dublin 7
Clergy under criticism
Ron Elsdon’s column (‘August’, Gazette, 21st September) has evoked difficult memories for me. Having lived in a hectic Dublin city centre rectory for 25 years, I can vouch for his every word.
As a clergy spouse, I had the best view in the parish and fully appreciate the huge pressure of demands on our clergy. What frustrated me most was the time given to grouchers in order to keep the peace.
I, for one, will be praying for busy clergy everywhere and assuring them of my support and understanding.
Lynda Crawford 9 Ashbrooke Manor Cavan
‘Catholic’ and ‘Roman Catholic’
I was recently rather disappointed when one of my friends, an elderly Roman Catholic priest, referred to the members of the Church of Ireland as “non-Catholics”. Ever since school and Sunday School days, I have understood that ‘Catholic’ means ‘Universal’.
In 434 AD , St Vincent of Lerins wrote: “In the Catholic Church itself, all care must be taken that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” (Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus.)
Most people today believe that such a state never really existed. However, ‘KAT H’ is a Greek word meaning ‘concerning’ and ‘HOLON ’ meaning ‘the whole’ – not merely a part. Every Sunday, we publicly affirm our belief in the “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”.
In the Litany, we pray for the work of the Church “in all the world” and in the alternative Litany, we pray that the Church will “make disciples of all nations”. Te Deum enjoins the holy Church to acknowledge God “thoughout all the world”.
The late scholarly Bishop Gilbert Wilson in his book, The Faith of an Anglican, reminds us that “over 1,600 years ago, Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem, described the Church as ‘Catholic’ because it is thoughout the world … because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge and because it treats and heals every sort of sin”.
Our Lord commissioned the apostles to (1) “go into all the world”, St Mark 16: 15, (2) to proclaim “the whole truth of the Gospel”, St John 16: 13, (3) “unto every creature”, St Mark 16: 15 and (4) to deal with “every kind of sin”, St John 20: 23.
This is “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints”, Jude 3. It hurts, therefore, when the members of our ancient Anglican Church, the Church of Ireland, are regarded as ‘non-Catholic’. Why do we often in conversation and in print fall into the trap of using this inaccurate terminology?
Stuart McGee (The Very Revd) Strandhill Sligo
Features and Columns
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- Soap – Down at St. David’s
- Rethinking Church – Stephen Neil – Episcopal expectations
- Life Lines – Ron Elsdon – Downton
THE WORDS OF JESUS: A GOSPEL OF THE SAYINGS OF OUR LORD Author: Phyllis Tickle Publisher: SPCK
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- Bible Sunday resources