Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome : January 2018
Anticipating the WPCU, we went to the Institut Francais for a showing of a film on St. Bridget of Sweden, featuring this remarkable woman of the 14th century whose mysticism and service to the sick and poor marked her out for sainthood, despite her opposition to the Popes of her day, even taking her challenge to Rome itself. That both Lutherans and Catholics can honour her life and witness is a mark of how holiness unites where doctrine divides! The discussion of The Call to Holiness dialogue report discussed at Methodist Church House the following Wednesday emphasised the power of story and testimony to convert and inspire which cut across the divisions of church.
The Week itself started at the Centro Pro Unione where the ecumenical reflections of those non-Catholics who gathered as observers during the Second Vatican Council were aired and shaped the final outcome of the ecumenical spring. The speaker was Mgr. Paul MacPartlan who chose to focus on the Chieti Statement on Synodality and Primacy (2016), the result of five years deliberations of Orthodox and Catholics. The afternoon concluded with an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word, using parts of the Week`s service devised by Christians in the Caribbean. Fr. Tony Currer presided, Rev. Ruth Frampton (who was the Anglican ordinand on placement in Rome in our first year here and based at the Lay Centre which led the rest of the service) preached on the text from Exodus, and we sang The right hand of God.
On the Saturday, a longer version of the service was used at the Beda College, where the preacher was Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi. It included a simple but effective exchange of chains. The Rector, Fr. Philip Gillespie presided and then hosted a dinner for the attendees. I sat on the top table with him and his guests, including representatives of the British and Australian embassies and Fr. Tony Currer.
The Sunday was very busy as we welcomed Archbishop Bernard, his wife Matilde and two guests at the Anglican Centre, to PSA where he was the guest preacher at a service led by our student Minister, before hurrying to Caravita for 11am where I was the guest preacher at a service attended by three of the diplomatic corps (American, British, and Georgian) and members of their regular congregation. We then had lunch out with Fr. Keith Pecklers, Fr. Tony Currer and two Canadian members of the congregation who are great supporters of ecumenism, Ken and Fawn White.
At 5pm, we gathered at St. Patrick`s, the home now of the displaced Santa Susanna American community where a choir led some vigorous singing and we heard an excellent sermon from Fr. Tony Currer. I presided as Chair of Churches Together in Rome. Despite the no car day in Rome which affected most church services, we got 75 people there.
At 6pm the next day, we had the very first evening prayers at St Paul`s Basilica, taken from the Methodist Worship book, at which I presided and three members of the Ponte Sant`Angelo congregation took part. Abbot Roberto welcomed us and Cardinal Harvey was present. I preached a short sermon on The Catholic Spirit reminding those gathered of Wesley`s proto-ecumenism and the passion for holiness which united Benedictines and Methodists. About 50 were present and church members were invited for refreshments in the Chapter House afterwards. Through the better use of Facebook and Twitter this event was widely reported and commented upon.
The eucharist at the Anglican Centre, though only slightly ecumenical in that Catherine Pepinster did the intercessions, heard a splendid sermon from the outgoing Deputy Director Marcus Walker appealing for an ecumenical spirit. There were a number of Roman Catholics present and three Methodists and a Baptist. We met the new Deputy Director of the Anglican Centre, Justin Lewis-Anthony and invited him to visit M EOR.
Another event at the Centro Pro Unione brought Cardinal Koch from PCPCU out to respond to presentations about the Lutheran/Roman Catholic report in Finland on Communion in Growth , an early more local product of the reception of the 2013 From Conflict to Communion report. Fr. Jim Puglisi`s summary of recent results of Lutheran – Roman Catholic dialogues was rather more exciting than the Finnish report.
Day 7 brought a trip out to Centrocello with Gina, a member of the Community of Sant`Egidio, to the church of St. Benedict where I preached at an evening prayer service attended by 40. Fr. Freddy, the Haitian RC priest, Fr. Ilia, the Romanian Orthodox priest who also spoke about his community, and myself gave the blessing together in a sign of ecumenical friendship and acceptance.
The Week concluded with the Papal Vespers at St. Paul`s Basilica. It was marked by two Methodists in the procession (myself and our President Mirella Manocchio, the first woman so to be involved). At the end, the joint blessing was this year a foursome, with Jens-Martin Kruse, the Lutheran Pastor, joining Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican leaders. Each year the service has become more inclusive and warm in its promotion of Ecumenical relationships. It was a fitting end to a busy week.
Director of MEOR, Revd Dr Tim Macquiban