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Focus on Unity: Signing of Historic Covenant

Hundreds of Catholic and Anglican clergy and parishioners as well as leaders from other Christian Churches gathered in St Stephen’s Cathedral to celebrate the signing of a new Covenant of Understanding between the two Churches.

Speaking after the May 29 event, Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane said “the signing of the covenant will bring our two Communions closer together in the future”.

“We live in a secular culture and the more Christians from different Communions bind together to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ so much the better.

“Not only should we use every opportunity to work together for the Kingdom of God but we should pray together whenever the opportunity arises.”

Archbishop Bathersby, Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba and Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane were joint signatories to the covenant at a combined act of worship.

The Celebration of Common Sesquicentenary and Signing of Anglican-Roman Catholic Covenant was celebrated on the 25th anniversary of Catholic Archbishop Francis Rush and Anglican Archbishop John Grindrod’s signing of a Common Declaration in support of ecumenical co-operation in St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane.

Among those present at the 2009 signing of the covenant were the late Archbishop Grindrod’s daughters Warrill and Alison Grindrod, who had also attended the signing of the Common Declaration in 1984.

Also attending were nephew of the late Archbishop Rush, Fr Ormond Rush and Archbishop Grindrod’s stepson Jon Cornish and family.

Archbishop Aspinall, in his homily at the May 29 event, said it “is a real joy for me to speak on this historic occasion”.

He thanked Archbishop Bathersby for the invitation to do so, continuing “tonight we celebrate a long, patient and very significant movement of God’s spirit in our two traditions and commit ourselves to move further together”.

One of the event organisers and executive officer for Brisbane archdiocese’s Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Relations Margaret Naylon said the signing of the covenant was “a historic high point in a healthily growing relationship between the two Churches”.

A “particularly moving moment” came during the reading of the Act of Commitment to unity between Catholics and Anglicans.

“Anglican Assistant Bishop Jonathan Holland asked all Anglicans present to join in a prayer which started: ‘Our brothers and sisters of the Roman Catholic Church, we thank God for you’,” Ms Naylon said.

“Liturgical Commission education officer Elizabeth Harrington then led a similar commitment on behalf of the (Catholic) archdiocese and Toowoomba diocese’s Catholic community.”

The signing of the covenant by Archbishops Bathersby and Aspinall and Bishop Morris was a highlight of the ceremony.

Prior to the signing, Dean of St Stephen’s Fr Ken Howell announced “the Anglican and Catholic dioceses have come together to enter into a covenant relationship that we hope will help to build that unity which Christ desires for all his Church”.

Soon after this, three candles, each within a specially crafted glass cylinder, were lit from the Paschal Candle.

Fr Howell together with Dean of St John’s, Rev Peter Catt, then presented the candles to the archbishops and bishop who took them away as a continuing reminder of their commitment to unity.

Each of the candles is intended to burn permanently within the three cathedrals.

During the event, Archbishop Aspinall also gave a detailed history of “a long, patient and very significant movement of God’s spirit in our two traditions”.

Among key events listed was the establishment of formal dialogue in 1967 between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsay.

“The first phase of those discussions produced a report in 1981,” the archbishop said.

“Then on 29 May, 1982, there was an historic visit by Pope John Paul II to meet and pray with Archbishop Robert Runcie in Canterbury Cathedral.

“Two years later on the same day, 29 May, 1984, Archbishops John Grindrod and Francis Rush came together in St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, to give thanks to God and to pray for the work of reconciliation between the two traditions.”

Archbishop Aspinall also spoke of more recent events involving the two Churches including the combined service of repentance in St John’s Cathedral in March this year and of working closely with Archbishop Bathersby in joint media interviews, opinion pieces and a Lenten pastoral letter.

The covenant has been made available along with other documents for study purposes to local Anglican and Catholic parishes, schools and other communities. It commits to a range of ongoing ecumenical activities.

Among these is “to celebrate an annual Ecumenical Service of Reconciliation … to be held as near as possible to 4 November (Anglican Roman Catholic Reconciliation Day) and to be rotated around the three cathedrals and the Anglican parishes in Toowoomba”.

Other initiatives include the promotion of an annual joint clergy day for the clergy of the three dioceses to reflect on shared pastoral, social or theological issues; the exploration of possibilities for co-operative use of church plant and resources, and a review and celebration of a re-affirmation of the covenant every three years.
Released by The Catholic Leader

June 4, 2009

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