|Pope Benedict XVI (from Wikipedia Commons)|
Archbishops Rowan Williams and Vincent Nichols and Commissioner Betty Matear of the Salvation Army, the Presidents of Churches Together in England, to-day welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, and expressed the hope that it would be a source of encouragement to all England’s churches .
‘As the Presidents of Churches Together in England, we welcome Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom. We rejoice in knowing that many Christians have prayed for him in preparation for his visit, and welcome his ministry amongst us. We look forward to joining Pope Benedict in Westminster Abbey for the celebration of Evening Prayer, which will be a significant stage in his pilgrimage. We pray that through our celebration of Christian faith the Church, led by the kindly light of Christ, may be renewed in its witness to the unity and hope which is Christ’s will for all people.’
Other leaders from Churches Together in England’s member churches added their welcome, from the Quakers to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from the Church of God of Prophecy to the United Reformed Church.
Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain of the Greek Orthodox Church welcomed the visit, which he hopes will be part of the continuing process ‘…of improving relationships between those who confess the name of Christ’. The British Quakers were ‘…glad of this opportunity for him to meet other Christians and people of other faiths.’ Commissioner John Matear, the Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army hoped that the Papal visit would help the churches to ‘…together proclaim the good news of the Kingdom in word and deed’.
The United Reformed Church, rejoicing in the warm relationships their local congregations enjoy with Roman Catholic congregations, said that the lead taken by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in moral and spiritual reflection was of benefit to all. Their General Secretary, the Revd Roberta Rominger, said ‘We pray that the Pope’s visit will energise and inspire the Church for all that lies ahead.’ The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins of the Methodist Church said that Methodists ‘…already enjoy discovering the unity we share in Christ with our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church’ and prayed God’s blessing on the visit. The Revd Jonathan Edwards of the Baptist Union hoped that the visit would lead to a deeper understanding between Christians which ‘…will enable us to be more effective in reaching out with God’s love to all people.’
Bishop Wilton Powell, the National Overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy said that his church extended a ‘cordial welcome to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’ as ‘a servant of the Lord with a message for this generation’, a view echoed by Fr Olu Abiola, the President of the Council of African and Caribbean Churches who welcomes Pope Benedict’s stance as one who ‘…safeguards the integrity of the Christian faith.’
The Lutheran Council of Great Britain gave thanks to God ‘for the commitment and integrity of the Catholic Church in its dialogue with the Lutheran Communion on the global level’ and prayed that Pope Benedict’s visit would enrich the lives and work of all England’s Christian churches, and Mr William Gabb of the Independent Methodist Church hoped that the visit ‘would stimulate many to look afresh at their faith and the person of Jesus.’
The Rt. Revd Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius, diocesan bishop of the Mar Thoma church in England also welcomes the visit, praying that it would strengthen ecumenical relationships and help the churches respond to the great challenges of ‘…poverty, population expansion, climate change, and economic stability’
Representatives of all the member churches of Churches Together in England will be praying with and for Pope Benedict at the service of Evening Prayer in Westminster Abbey on Friday September 17th. They welcome him not simply as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, but as a fellow Christian and fellow pilgrim.