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Historic joint Lenten Pastoral Message issued

To commemorate the joint 150th celebrations of the Anglican Diocese and the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane in 2009, their respective leaders, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and Archbishop John Bathersby, have released a joint Lenten Pastoral message. The text of the message follows:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We recognise and acknowledge that the Holy Spirit has been brooding over this ancient land and its peoples for thousands of years. In recent times – the last 150 years and more – knowledge of God has been given more concrete expression in the good news of Jesus Christ.

We give thanks and praise to God for the many blessings poured upon our respective churches over the last 150 years. We thank God especially for raising up generations of faithful men and women, who have witnessed to the love of God, known the grace of Jesus Christ, and who, in the power of the Holy Spirit, have practised Christ’s message and ministry of reconciliation and brought hope to others. They have lived as disciples of Christ, kept the faith, finished the race and shone as lights in our dioceses to the glory of God the Father; and have passed on a living faith to us.

We give thanks and praise to God for a growing together of our churches, recalling the prayer of Jesus “that they may all be one”. The personal friendship between past archbishops and bishops of our respective churches has been constant, and provided a springboard for a happy flowering of ecumenical co-operation, especially since the early 1960s. This co-operation continues in our own time in many ways. Every year the bishops share a meal together and every year diocesan clergy come together for a day of common study and reflection. For 25 years the Brisbane College of Theology provided a common theological education for ordination candidates of both churches.

Every year the two cathedrals come together for common celebrations, such as the recent “street march” – part of the preparation for the Roman Catholic World Youth Day in 2008. We study together the documents of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, and AUSTARCC – Australian Anglican Roman Catholic Conversations; we share sympathy regarding tensions within both communions, and we rejoice in local parish initiatives of co-operation. In 2008, Archbishop Bathersby (in his capacity as Chair of IARCCUM) was invited as a guest to the Anglican Lambeth Conference and this further consolidated the friendship we share. Perhaps the appeal to God for the precious gift of unity was best articulated in May 1984, when Archbishops John Grindrod and Francis Rush signed a Common Declaration at St John’s Cathedral, which highlighted the warm relationships between Anglican and Roman Catholic communities of the respective dioceses of Brisbane.

In an increasingly secular society, the churches recognise the value in solidarity and togetherness. But more than this, we are motivated by a desire to be obedient to Jesus who prayed “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.

As we stand at the beginning of Lent, a season inviting us to special recollection and reflection, we also recognise the shadows that have sometimes fallen over ecumenical co-operation. At times each church has frustrated the Holy Spirit. For many decades, there was little or no contact between the churches. Sectarianism, suspicion, and hardness of heart have been part of our common history too. We have been driven more by fear than love; more by self-protection than hope; lacking in both insight and will in responding to the demands of the Gospel. We have failed to do what we should have done.

For this reason – and to make our keeping of Lent and our common 150th celebrations more authentic – we invite as many Anglicans and Roman Catholics as wish to do so, to join us at St John’s Cathedral on Friday, March 27, for a common act of repentance for our ecumenical and other failings of Christ over the last 150 years, and to re-dedicate ourselves to the work of Christ in co-operation and goodwill to one another in the years ahead.

As well, on Friday, May 29, we intend to renew the 1984 Common Declaration and sign a Covenant of Understanding. Through this covenant we seek and anticipate God’s blessings in the years ahead. We pledge ourselves among other things:

  • to continue to pray for one another
  • to hold a celebration of an annual Ecumenical Liturgy of Reconciliation
  • to invite the bishops to preach in each other’s churches on appropriate occasions
  • to continue the joint clergy day of shared prayer, discussion and reflection
  • to explore possibilities for co-operative use of church plant and resources
  • to explore possibilities for further co-operation in theological education,priestly formation and lay education and training.
  • And to explore possibilities for co-operation in the development and presentation of church music, art, drama and appropriate public lectures and events

In all that we do this year, we seek God’s glory, conscious that the Holy Spirit is moving, inspiring and guiding us. We seek your prayers, as together we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Be assured of our prayers for you through this Lenten journey.
Archbishop Phillip Aspinall

Archbishop John Bathersby

Sunday March 1, 2009

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