THE Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis have used their New Year messages to urge people to live together better, after what Archbishop Welby described as a year of “struggles and divisions”.
In a pre-recorded message at Lambeth Palace, broadcast on BBC One on New Year’s Day, Archbishop Welby urged people to start 2019 with “new spirit of openness towards each other” — especially those with whom they live.
Living together is “never easy”, he said. He spoke of the Community of St Anselm at Lambeth as an example of the power of choosing one another over division. “Because they are human, they clash together over something as small as the washing up, or as big as their politics,” he said.
“They are united by one thing: their faith in Jesus Christ; but their own faith is not what holds them together. . . In this community I find it so powerful that these remarkably different people choose each other.
“There is a parallel with our country today. We’re wonderfully much more diverse than we used to be. Yet we disagree on many things. And we are struggling with how to disagree well. Turn on the television, read the news, and you see a lot that could tempt you to despair.
“Hope lies in our capacity to approach this new year in a spirit of openness towards each other — committed to discovering more of what it means to be citizens together, even amid great challenges and changes.”
He continued: “That will involve choosing to see ourselves as neighbours, as fellow citizens, as communities each with something to contribute. It will mean gathering around our common values, a common vision and a commitment to one another.
“With the struggles and divisions of recent years, that will not be easy. But that difficult work is part of the joy and blessing of being a community, whether it is the 20 people here, or millions of us.”
Pope Francis, in his sermon during the New Year’s Day mass at the Vatican, also spoke of the difficulty of living together. He praised the love of mothers, which he said brought hope to a disjointed society. He gave the example of the Virgin Mary.
“She blesses the journey of every man and every woman in this year that is beginning, and that will be good precisely in the measure in which each one will welcome the goodness of God that Jesus came to bring into the world.”
He went on: “How much dispersion and solitude there is all around us. The world is completely connected, yet seems increasingly disjointed. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters.
“We need to learn from mothers that heroism is shown in self-giving, strength in compassion, wisdom in meekness.”