Christian leaders in Northern Ireland recently issued a joint Lenten Letter condemning violence. The initiative was in response to the attacks on police and military officials there.
Two soldiers died in a crime that shocked the region and brought back to life vivid memories of past extreme violence.
Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Evangelical leaders endorsed “Together for the Common Good” while also promoting a simple act of wearing purple as a display of unity.
The history of the Northern Ireland conflict is well known and sectarian violence leaves bloody marks in history’s pages.
Of course conflict between Christians makes for news but thankfully there is much going on throughout the Christian world that is positive.
In Brisbane today there will be an event involving Roman Catholics and Anglicans that is good news.
A joint act of repentance will take place in the recently completed St John’s Anglican Cathedral and led by both archbishops. The event, this evening at 7.30, will be an opportunity for us to come together and reflect. The common act of repentance is for our ecumenical and other failings of Christ.
We will not ignore the failings of our relationships. At times, and for some decades, there was little or no contact between our churches. Instead of shared worship, respect and love there was sectarianism, suspicion and hardness of heart. At times we have been driven by fear and self-preservation and have lacked the insight and will to respond properly to the gospel.
We failed, and this act of repentance acknowledges that. It also provides the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the work of Christ in co-operation and goodwill.
We cannot move forward without recognising past failings and respecting differences. Today there are disagreements within as well as between churches. Over the years we have been self-righteous and exclusive within our religious traditions, creating and deepening divisions as we displayed contempt for the cultures and traditions of others.
Often this has come about because of ignorance and misunderstanding. We became complacent about our disunity and prejudices, refusing to live as the one people of God.
The act of repentance will include reflection about and confession of sins against Church and individuals, sins committed in the service of truth, sins against Christian unity, against indigenous people, the rights of people and respect for cultures and religions, sins against the dignity of women and the unity of the human race, and sins against creation.
The 150th celebrations are very real for Catholics and Anglicans as we share this anniversary with the state.
While this act of repentance acknowledges failure, our journey together has also been enriching and constructive.
There have been the firm friendships between respective archbishops. In the 1860s and 1870s archbishops Tufnell and Quinn travelled together and campaigned successfully for government support for church schools. A firm friendship resulted – a baton that has been passed on through the generations. In particular archbishops Webber and Dunne, Halse and Duhig, Grindrod and Rush, Archbishop Hollingworth and more recently between the two of us, Archbishops Aspinall and Bathersby.
On May 29, 1984, at St John’s Cathedral, archbishops Rush and Grindrod signed a covenant between the Catholics and the Anglicans. On the 25th anniversary of that signing, at St Stephen’s Cathedral, we will renew and take further that act of reconciliation – just one part of activities we will share in this historic year.
As human beings we all fail at times and fall short of what God wants from us. However, we both feel that with a firm foundation, built up over 150 years, we will continue to grow in unity and love. We both look forward to even greater co-operation and unity. By God’s grace we are able to express more fully that oneness that is God’s gift and God’s will for us.
Archbishop John Bathersby – Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane
Dr Phillip Aspinall – Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane
March 27, 2009