A new Pope and a new Archbishop of Canterbury: inaugural thoughts

by
28 March 2013

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From the Bishop of Wakefield and others
Sir, - The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, is right to highlight the unique opportunity that now exists, through the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), to "work for the common good together" ( Comment, 22 March).

In Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby, we have leaders with attributes and priorities that are attuned to the most urgent needs of our times; but coming together must be about the practical as well as the doctrinal, and cannot simply be lefttoARCIC III.

Pope Francis has spoken of "the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless, and all the marginalised, thus striving to make society more humane and more just". Archbishop Welby reminded us in his inaugural sermon that "In England alone, the Churches together run innumerable food banks, shelter the homeless, educate a million children, offer debt counselling, comfort the bereaved, and far, far more."

The recently launched Together for the Common Good programme (www.togetherforthecommongood.co.uk)will be exploring how UK Christians have worked together for social justice, and, more importantly, how we can co-operate most effectively now in times of increasing economic hardship and growing inequality.

Itis inspired by the ground-breaking partnership in the gospel of two great Christian leadersin Liverpool, Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock. T4CG will be seeking to follow the strong and welcome lead given to us last week by the Bishop of Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Stephen Wakefield, Hilary Russell,Tim Livesey, Peter McGrail,Jenny Sinclair, Nicholas Sagovsky
Together for the Common Good
Steering Group
c/o Bishop's Lodge
Woodthorpe Lane
Wakefield WF2 6JL

From the Revd Gareth Miller
Sir, - I cannot help drawing com- parisons between the events in Rome the Tuesday before last and those in Canterbury on the follow-ing Thursday.

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While admiring the new Pope's emphasis on simplicity, I felt that the inaugural mass was rather under-whelming and disappointing in several respects.

I have attended in person, or seen on TV, many of these occasions in my time, and I felt it was very much "more of the same" - a predictable mass; the participants almost exclusively white and male - the principal ones well over 70; the music very good, but again predictable and unimaginative; token gestures towards other cultures; ecumenical spectators, but no ecumenical participants; the homily moving and well-crafted, but hardly inspiring.

The Pope himself, undoubtedly a holy and unaffected man, is 76 and, by all accounts, conservative in almost every respect. And I'm not so sure about the novelty of his coming from Latin America: he's Italian!

By contrast, the events at Canterbury were far more Catholic: more colourful, much more imaginative, hugely more representative of the worldwide character of the Church, and of the whole spectrum of humanity. Although the Church of England and the Anglican Communion still have some way to go, it was refreshing to see such a mix of male and female, young and old, and black and white with leading parts to play.

And the sermon was uplifting, encouraging, and challenging - and from a man of 57, who is young in mind and spirit, and demonstrates an openness and willingness to engage that seem alien to the ethos of Rome.

I say this with absolutely no ill will towards Rome. I have huge sympathies with the Roman Catholic Church, and have many happy associations with it. I hope to be proved wrong, but I fear that this election may have been an opportunity missed.

GARETH MILLER
Chelwood, Market Street
Charlbury, Oxon OX7 3PL

From Mr Charlie Bell
Sir, - While I, together with many worldwide Anglicans, am delighted that we have such a fine priest in many ways as our new Archbishop of Canterbury, I am thoroughly disappointed that he remains in the old tradition of the Church of England in his attitude to gays.

His words on the issue would have been radical in the 1980s; but now they just seem ludicrous. The Church is used to being 30 years behind (hardly the vanguard of Christ), and on this issue it would be better that they were honest and not all things to all people.

Anyone with any friends under the age of 30 would realise that the Church is utterly out of step with even a basic understanding of human sexuality in the modern world.

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It is quite clear that the church hierarchy is not brave enough to upset many Anglicans around the world and welcome gay Christians with open arms, despite their lukewarm words. I would rather be opposed outright by clergy than given platitudes about gay couples they know who seem to have normal relationships.

If the hierarchy wants to continue to stay in the past, all well and good, but please don't pretend anything to the contrary is going on when we are told that our love is fine, but anything more than gentle petting is an outrage to God.

CHARLIE BELL
Queens' College,
Cambridge, CB3 9ET

From Mr J. Longstaff
Sir, - Archbishop Justin Welby is to be applauded for reminding his audience in Canterbury Cathedral, especially the political leaders, how much this nation owes to its Christian heritage and the commitment of faithful individuals who brought about many beneficial changes to the nation's practices.

Their response to the call of Christ and applying the teaching of the Bible was often despite opposition of the politicians and the prevailing attitudes in society.

Let us pray that our current political leaders, who seek to establish a loving, caring, just, and fair society will harken to the wisdom of the new Archbishop in encouraging people to listen to Christ's call and get out of their comfortable situations to do the will of God.

J. LONGSTAFF
4A The Green
Woodford Green
Essex IG8 0NF

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