‘On the Way’: Our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell and celebrating with the Neocatechumenal Way in Preston

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Dear Friends in Christ,

I led our Annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell Shrine last Saturday afternoon, beginning at the parish church of St. Mary’s, Fernyhalgh, which lies within the Preston Deanery, and processing with the Blessed Sacrament along the quiet country lane which leads to this ancient shrine of Our Lady & the Martyrs.

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We were blessed with pleasant, warm sunny weather and the very prayerful atmosphere of the procession was remarked upon by many.

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Upon arrival at our ancient shrine we had adoration, the litany of Our Lady, a short homily and concluding with Benediction.

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The refreshments on offer afterwards were much appreciated and allowed the pilgrims to relax and enjoy each other’s company – even outdoors in the summer sunshine!

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Although this was a pilgrimage lasting just a couple of hours it clearly meant a lot to those who came along. Prayer, adoration, devotion, silence – all such things help to nourish the soul and build up the life of the Church and our local Diocese of Lancaster in a powerful, if unspectacular, way. Christ continues to walk among his pilgrim people – helping us, too, with the support of Blessed Mary and our local Martyrs.

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What we call the ‘new movements’ have become a feature of Catholic life in the last decades, especially since, the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65. One such movement is the Neocatechumenal Way which has spread rapidly throughout the universal Church in recent times – even to our Diocese at Carlisle and more recently in Preston.

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The Neocatechumenal Way began in 1963 when a young, talented Spanish painter called Kiko Argüello, who had had a conversion experience after a period of atheism as a student, returned for Christmas to his parents’ house.

There he found the cook in tears in the kitchen. Spain was still a very poor country in the early 1960s, and Kiko learned that the woman lived with her drunken and abusive husband in one of the shanty towns on the outskirts of Madrid. Kiko visited the woman in the squalid shack where she lived.

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Hearing what seemed like a call from God to leave everything, he went to stay with the family in their tiny kitchen. The scene of utter desolation in that slum so horrified him that, on completing his national service, he decided that in the event of the Second Coming he would want Christ to find him at the feet of the crucified Christ – namely, at the feet of the poorest of the poor.

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His inspiration came from Charles de Foucauld: to live in silence at the feet of Christ crucified. He went to live himself in a shack in the shanty town, taking nothing with him except his Bible and guitar. The slum-dwellers were curious as to who he was and why he was there.

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They discovered he was a Christian and began to ask him questions about the Gospel. The group that gathered round him in 1963 were the first community of what was to become the Neocatechumenal Way, and Kiko’s talks to this group the first so-called “catechesis”. At the same time he was joined by a young Spanish woman called Carmen Hernández, who had just completed a theology degree at a missionary institute.

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When the police began to pull down the shanty town Kiko appealed to the then Archbishop of Madrid, Mgr Casimiro Morcillo. Morcillo came to see for himself and was so impressed by the work Kiko and Carmen were doing that he invited them to begin the same catechesis in the parishes of Madrid. Subsequently, he gave them a letter of introduction to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, who invited them to do the same in Rome.

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The movement spread with extraordinary rapidity and as early as 1974 Pope Paul VI publicly hailed its members. He said: “Here we see post-conciliar fruits! … How great is the joy, how great is the hope, which you give us with your presence and with your activity!”

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St Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have enthusiastically supported the Way, resisting some negative pressure from within the Roman Curia as well as local episcopates. In 1987 St Pope John Paul II asked the movement to open a seminary in the Diocese of Rome; today about half the ordinations for the diocese of Rome come from this Redemptoris Mater seminary, the first of the 70 such seminaries that now exist worldwide, including one in the Diocese of Westminster.

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So far more than 1,600 priests have been ordained from these seminaries, which have now about 2,000 seminarians. The movement itself has about a million members, excluding children, belonging to more than 20,000 communities in many dioceses around the world – including our own.

Characterised by an emphasis on personal conversion, the centrality of Sacred Scripture and the Holy Eucharist, the members of ‘the Way’ engage in various intense phases of catechesis.

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At the completion of one such phase of catechesis last Monday evening in St. Clare’s Parish, Preston, I was invited to come and as the local bishop present a copy of the Scriptures to over twenty people in a Liturgy of the Word.

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The Church, and very recently Pope Francis, encourages us all to read and reflect regularly and prayerfully on the Scriptures, basing our lives on them.

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As these new adherents of the Neocatechumenal Way begin the next stage of their catechetical journey, I pray that they may come to know Our Lord ever more deeply through communal sharing in his Word and in the celebration of the Eucharist.

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I also able to greet personally two ‘Families on Mission’ who are living and working in Preston as missionaries – helping the work of Evangelisation there.

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These families – mandated or commissioned by the Pope in their mission – have sacrificed much to be here with us in Preston (there are also some in Carlisle) and so I wanted to encourage them in their efforts and to assure them of my support and prayers.

May the Neocatechumenal Way – prove to be a blessing and source of growth and joy for their local parishes, the wider cities of Preston and Carlisle – and for the wider Diocese of Lancaster.

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Until next week – as ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

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Parish Visitation at St Clare’s, Preston & Confirmations

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My dear Friends in Christ,

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My Episcopal Parish Visitations of the Preston Deanery continue, and I spent last weekend in St. Clare’s parish, Fulwood, adjacent to the large and ever growing Royal Preston Hospital which is served from St. Clare’s.

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As ever, it was good to enjoy the company of the priests and to meet the parishioners after each Mass, particularly a group of Austrian teenagers on Sunday morning who are spending some time in the Preston area.

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Their presence at Mass reminds us that we are part of a wider Church. The Sunday concluded with the evening Confirmation Mass, during which over twenty young people received the sacrament of Confirmation.

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I like to think that the liveliness and delight of these newly confirmed evident at the reception afterwards is due in great part to this very special sacramental moment, for which they have prepared assiduously.

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Earlier on Saturday afternoon I met those who were to be confirmed and other youth groups, who informed me of the admirable range of charitable activities they are engaged in.

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No Parish Visitation of St Clare’s would be complete with seeing some of the elderly and housebound, and I invariably find this to be a moving and humbling experience.

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The parish priest gave each of these housebound parishioners Holy Communion and I concluded with a blessing. The often silent witness of such devout Catholics in their frailty is impressive, and their powerful prayerful place in the life of the parish can hardly be exaggerated.

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St. Clare’s parish has two schools within its boundaries and I visited both on Monday morning/afternoon with the priests of the parish.

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St. Clare’s Primary School is close to the church and I had the pleasure of attending an assembly, seeing the children in learning mode at class, and meeting the staff at break time.

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I proceeded from there to Corpus Christi High School for an interesting and informative couple of hours.

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The facilities in Corpus Christi are impressive and our young people have every incentive to learn.

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There was a warm welcome both from the staff and students and my time there seemed to pass quickly.

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Two reflective assemblies, one for Year 7 students and the other for the staff, brought a pleasant visit to a close. All in all, a very satisfying weekend in St. Clare’s Parish!

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It was the turn of the parish of Goosnargh to have Confirmations on Tuesday evening. Though reasonably close to Preston, this is a delightfully rural area with a long Catholic tradition dating from at least 1775.

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A pleasant summer evening put everyone in good heart for the Confirmation Mass, both parents and children. The faith continues and is handed on at St. Francis’, Hill Chapel!
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The present spell of fine weather made for a very scenic journey to West Cumbria and Workington on Thursday afternoon for Confirmation in the Christ the Good Shepherd Parish. The Cumbrian hills and fells looked quite resplendent in the evening sunshine, and the handiwork of the Creator was at its most attractive.

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I Confirmed over twenty young people, as well as giving four of them their First Holy Communion. All were well prepared and the presence of a good and attentive congregation – parents, families, parishioners – helped make the concelebrated Mass of Confirmation a memorable one for the young people.

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The happy atmosphere afterwards was indicative of just how much the evening meant to everyone and, dare I say, proof of the active presence of the Holy Spirit!

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Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Celebrating Pentecost at Appleby Fayre!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

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The weekend of Pentecost proved to be quite a varied one for me. I travelled to St. Mary’s, Barrow-in-Furness on Friday evening to offer Mass, during which a lady parishioner made her final commitment of Consecration to the Order of Consecrated Widowhood. My Homily is here.

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Both this rite of widowhood and that of consecrated virginity are gradually becoming better known within the Church.

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The feast of Pentecost highlights the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the rich diversity of spiritual gifts or charisms which he bestows on different members of the Church, for the building up and benefit of the whole Body of Christ.

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Consecrated virginity and widowhood are being increasingly recognised and acknowledged as special graces of the Spirit, and they offer tangible witness to us all to a unique call of Christ lived out in the circumstances of an individual’s daily life.

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The single parish of Barrow now enjoys the appealing title of Our Lady of Furness, embracing what were once four communities with their own churches.

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Parishioners in very large numbers gathered in St. Mary’s on Saturday morning with me their bishop and their priests for the celebration of their patronal feast, and the church, filled to overflowing, was such an uplifting and encouraging sight for everyone present. My Homily is here.

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How Church communities continue to be alive and ever discover new life! The feast day Mass represented a further step forward in the collaboration betweeen and consolidation of these Barrow faith communities.

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Towards the end of the Mass I blessed nine icons of Our Lady, for distribution to the five schools and four congregations, and in accordance with the custom of the Eastern rite practice anointed or chrismated each of them with the holy oil of chrism.

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The priests and Catholics of Barrow can indeed draw fresh heart from this truly inspiring gathering for the Mass of their patronal feast. In this assembly of faith Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came a day early to Barrow! The inclement weather may have interrupted the intended outdoor celebrations afterwards, but assuredly did not dampen spirits.

It was onwards to the famous Appleby Horse Fayre on Pentecost Sunday morning.

This unique convention of travelling people, with their horses and caravans, as well as the numerous visitors who come for the day, is quite an experience for a first-time visitor such as myself!

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The milling crowds, bare-back horse riders, both men and women, and horse-drawn conveyances of various kinds created a rare atmosphere in this town which has hosted this fayre from time immemorial.

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I came to offer Mass and administer the sacraments – baptism, confirmation, and first Holy Communions – to the families of travellers.

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The faith of the travelling community remains very strong, evident from their desire to hand on that faith by ensuring that their children receive the sacraments.

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The presence of several priests and religious – also members of the Southwark Vocations Centre – made a powerful impact and reminding all present of the Church’s desire to be close to her people.

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It was also very moving for me as bishop to bless so many individuals afterwards as they queued patiently after Mass. One could not but be impressed.

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The degree of disorder, even confusion in Appleby, I reflected, was surely reminiscent in a way of that first Pentecost morning in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit drew unity from wide diversity.

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The Spirit did undoubtedly come to scenic Appleby and gathered us all together in the unity in faith.

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A busy but satisfying Pentecost weekend concluded appropriately for me as bishop in the cathedral on Sunday evening for the Confirmation of adults and young people from the Lancaster deanery. My homily is here.

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I am sure those who were Confirmed will long remember the packed cathedral and the personal presence of their own parish priests as they were being anointed with chrism.

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The lovely setting of our cathedral, the fact it was the evening of Pentecost, a large and attentive congregation of families, friends and parishioners, uplifting music- all contributed to a very prayerful and spiritual atmosphere and to the sense that Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit was very much a reality in our midst here in Lancaster.

A weekend rich in variety, but truly a privilege for a bishop to be part of it!

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I joined the leaders of the main Christian traditions in Cumbria on Wednesday/Thursday for our annual overnight meeting in the picturesque setting of the Glenthorne Quaker residence in Grasmere.

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It was good to be together, to pray, and to share experiences and reflect on current challenges, many of which are common to all the churches in the area.

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In keeping with the Quaker practice of silence, there was a relaxed atmosphere of quiet and peace all around the Glenthorne centre, and which was enhanced by the striking natural beauty of the Lake District surroundings.

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On Thursday evening I travelled to Cottam, close to Preston, to administer Confirmation to the children of St. Andrew and Blessed George Haydock parish, and to a number of others from two neighbouring parishes, Lea Town and Newhouse.

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The occasion was blessed by most beautiful weather, and summer evening sunshine with blue skies helps puts everyone in good spirits. The church was filled to capacity, and the attentive prayerfulness of the congregation ensured that the young people were well supported as they completed their Christian initiation with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

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It is now the season of Confirmation in very many places, and my own experience as bishop has brought home to me how deeply significant the conferral of this sacrament is, for those being Confirmed, for their parents, families and friends, as well as for the wider parish community. It is both a moment of grace and of evangelisation for all who are present.

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The Holy Spirit is indeed active with his gifts in all places and at all times.

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Until next week – God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

St Petronia – Praying for us at Warwick Bridge!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

The small but old and very beautiful church of Our Lady & St. Wilfrid, Warwick Bridge, was the setting last Saturday for a Mass celebrated in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite in honour of St. Petronia (or Petronella), who was an early Roman martyr.

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Relics of the Saint are preserved in the church, and Saturday’s celebration marked the culmination of a nine-day novena on the theme of the beatitudes.

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Until recent years the church and the parish was in the care of the Benedictines of Ampleforth, and perhaps that explains the sense of monastic peace (pax) which seems to pervade this hallowed spot. Today the church is in the care of the three priests of the Parish of Our Lady of Eden.

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The body of St Petronia was discovered in the catacombs of Priscilla in Rome in 1841. She was found buried with a phial of blood (now turned to dust) – something commonly done when the deceased had been martyred for the Faith. The stone name-plate from her tomb was also excavated.

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The relics appear to have been given to Marmeduke Constable-Maxwell (the 11th Lord Herries of Terregles (1837–1908) – possibly by Servant of God, Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val. The familly then transferred them to the domestic chapel at their home, Terregles in Dumfries.

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In the late nineteenth century his descendants married into the Howard family at Corby Castle. The relics were definitely at Corby by 1919 when the parish priest, Fr John Cody, OSB, carried out an investigation upon them. The relics were then transferred to Benedictine Sisters at Holme Eden Abbey. When the Abbey closed in 1983, they were given to the church at Warwick Bridge.

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On 25th September 1940 Thomas Edward Flynn, the second bishop of Lancaster, opened the reliquary to examine its contents. He removed three small bones to be placed in separate reliquaries, the whereabouts of which are not now known. The reliquary was then resealed. In 1991 Mgr Gregory Turner, Vicar General of the Diocese, carried out a further investigation. It was estimated that she was a girl of about ten years old.

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The Mass in honour of St. Petronia (here is my homily for the occasion) coincided with the lovely feast of the Visitation of Our Blessed Lady which enhanced the celebration on what was appropriately, weather-wise, an early summer sunny morning.

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The refreshments on offer afterwards enabled the congregation to meet and chat in what can only have been a pleasant atmosphere of grace and peace in the church grounds.

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I mused on how the life of the Church goes on in these little communities of believers, brought together and held fast by the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit. They are heirs to a long tradition of faith and loyally continue that tradition in our day.

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My Our Lady of Eden & St. Wilfrid, with the martyr Petronia, watch over this precious part of our Cumbrian Catholic heritage!

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There have been a number of new Episcopal appointments recently in England, one of whom was Monsignor Nicholas Hudson, until now parish priest of Sacred Heart Parish, Wimbledon and formerly Rector of the Venerable English College Rome.

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Monsignor Hudson was ordained as auxiliary bishop in Westminster on Wednesday, a Mass of ordination and so after a Diocesan Trustees meeting on Tuesday I travelled to London to concelebrate with other members of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and many priests from Westminster & Southwark, and beyond.

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols was the chief celebrant of the Mass in the fine surroundings of Westminster Cathedral and based much of his homily of the significance and implications of the oil of chrism with which the new bishop, Monsignor Hudson, would be anointed.

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The ordination of a new bishop represents an important historical moment both for a diocese and for the Church as a whole. It means that a new shepherd is being charged with the care of a portion of God’s people, and to him is entrusted that ‘deposit of faith’ which has come down to us from the Apostles.

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He must ensure that through his ministry this faith is taught and handed on in its full integrity. As the Cardinal noted, a new bishop represents also a gift of Christ to his Church, and he assured Bishop Hudson of a warm and generous welcome as he begins his work as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Westminster.

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As befits such a cathedral as Westminster, the music of the ordination Mass settings was exalted and inspiring, the composer being none other than Palestrina, the great figure of the Italian renaissance.

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The occasion was an uplifting one for all who were present, and the prayerful good wishes of the Diocese of Lancaster are extended to Bishop Hudson as he takes his place among the Bishops of England and Wales.

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Finally, on a beautiful sunny Thursday evening I ‘popped in’ to the new fledgling foundation of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma at St Augustine’s, Preston – for their Holy Hour and something to eat with the Sisters afterwards.

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As you know, I am inviting several newer religious communities into the Diocese to assist practically in the mission of the Church here – using their gifts and energy for the good of our Local church.

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Please do offer us your prayers and support for this bold and exciting initiative.

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Until next week – may God’s blessings be yours,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Pope Francis in the Holy Land

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Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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The Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis last week to the Holy Land has had a huge impact throughout the world and has received very favourable publicity.

What I found remarkable was the range of people the Holy Father was able to meet and converse with in the course of his visit.

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During his pilgrimage the Pope met Christians, Muslims and Jews and spoke directly and forcefully to each of them.

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He was somehow able to affirm them and yet pinpointing the problems and challenges they face living together in the Holy Land.

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It is a tribute to the immense religious stature of Pope Francis that he was welcomed and able to mix freely with the three major religious groups at different moments during his visit, something few political statesmen would be in a position to do. That alone was a signal achievement.

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Reading the homilies and speeches of Pope Francis what comes through is his concern for peace and mutual tolerance among the inhabitants of the Middle East.

The large numbers of displaced people due to the war in Syria were highlighted by the Pope in Jordan as a cause of deep sadness; his concern for children and families uprooted by the conflict shone through in his appeal for an end to the provision of arms and violence.

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His homily at Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem centred firmly on the place and importance of infants and children, and care for them is a barometer of a healthy society.

At the close of this Eucharistic celebration the Pope took the step of announcing his invitation to the Presidents of Isreal and the Palestinian Authority to come to the Vatican to pray for peace. Both have subsequently accepted and the meeting is scheduled to take place on 8 June.

Pope Francis was also strong in his defence and support of the Christians living in the Holy Land: their survival is critical to Christianity’s identity. It’s also a key to peace in the region, and therefore to peace in the world.

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The threat facing Christianity in its birthplace has become depressingly clear. Christians represented 30 percent in 1948, while today their share in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is estimated at 1.25 percent.

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The risk, as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, has put it, is that the Holy Land is becoming a “spiritual Disneyland” – full of glittering rides and attractions, but empty of its indigenous Christian population.

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French Cardinal Tauran, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and formerly Pope John Paul II’s top diplomat, who accompanied Pope Francis last week, offered another evocative image: The Christian centres of the Holy Land could fast become like “archeological and historical sites, to be visited like the Colosseum in Rome – museums with entrance tickets, and guides who explain the beautiful legends.”

Pope Francis hugs Rabbi Skorka and Abboud, during his visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City

The warm atmosphere pervading Pope Francis’ meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders will surely bear fruit in the future, and already two major political figures from the Muslim and Jewish world have agreed to come to the Vatican for talks with the Pope.

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The Pope reinforced again and again the common desire of all human beings for peace and a way of life in accord with their dignity, irrespective of race or religion.

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Such sentiments surely found an echo among those who listened to him.

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With the help of the prayers of so many, the Holy Father’s words will indeed prove to be seeds of peace in a traditionally troubled area of the world.

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We also give thanks to our Lord for the meeting that took place between Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

We pray that this meeting in the sacred place of our Lord’s Death and Resurrection will contribute to the restoration of full communion in apostolic faith and sacrament between these Sister Churches.

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The meeting marks the 50th anniversary since the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 in Jerusalem which opened a new period in the relationship between our Churches.

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We began a process of reconciliation through prayer, theological dialogue and common witness. Since that time, Popes and Patriarchs have met together regularly. As Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras said fifty years ago, “Having found one another again, we meet the Lord together.”

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We thank God for the work He has begun between us and trust firmly in Him for its completion. In fidelity, we commit ourselves to continue working for His will.

Another particularly moving moment was the Pope’s reflection, a prayer to God, at the Yad Vashem memorial to the six million victims of the Holocaust.

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Here not only did he speak most powerfully – but he kissed the hands of some survivors of concentration camps by way of tribute.

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His visit to Yad Vashem, the Memorial Wall and his earlier unscheduled stop at the wall dividing Israel from Palestine, and Bethlehem especially, appeared to be deep emotional moments for the Holy Father.

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Such dramatic moments permitted him to express his solidarity with all those have or still suffer whatever their background.

Of course, Pope Francis was on Pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and as such his visit reminded me of our own happy, full and grace-filled Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in April 2012.

The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land received comprehensive coverage on the Vatican website, and all of his homilies and addresses are available in an English translation there and on the official website of the visit run by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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These homilies, addresses – and images – show just how powerful a force for peace and harmony among peoples the papacy can be in our modern world.

Until next week – God bless you all,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster