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Ruby twice over

07 August 2007

by Margaret Duggan

IT HAS been a ruby celebration twice over on the island of Mallorca, one of the chaplaincies of the diocese in Europe, says the Chaplain, the Revd Robert Ellis. Forty years ago, in the capital, Palma, the then Bishop consecrated St Philip and St James for the Anglican congregation. After the anniversary service on a recent Sunday morning, the churchwardens cut a huge birthday cake (above), while the congregation sang “Happy birthday” to their simple, white, and typically Mallorcan church.

One of the few remaining people who were at the consecration 40 years ago, Dick Welch, recalls how the final payment for its development was made only days before the Bishop arrived — which enabled the church to be consecrated free of debt. Before this, in the years of Franco’s dictatorship, the congregation had worshipped in a converted soda-water factory. An officer from the Guardia Civil would occasionally come to stand at the back, with his hand on his gun holster, pretending to be able to understand every word of the sermon — just in case anything untoward was said about Franco’s Spain.

Also 40 years ago, the Anglicans at Cala d’Or, in the south-east of the island, were given permission to use the Roman Catholic church of Santa Maria del Mar — the very first time this had happened in the whole of Spain. On the 40th anniversary, the local RC priest was invited, with clerics from other denominations, and, after the celebratory eucharist, there was a buffet lunch for more than 100 guests.

Mr Ellis says that the ripples from that first offer of hospitality are still spreading out. “Quite a few years ago, the Catholic Bishop [of Mallorca] gave permission for the Anglicans to use any of the 90 churches on the island, so long as the parish priest gave permission. To date, I haven’t met one who has refused.”

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