Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue says that Christians must not 'airbrush' historical divisions

An English bishop has called for the creation of a “truth and reconciliation commission” to promote Christian unity.

In an address marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bishop Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster said that if Christians did not recognise their sins against each other then they would be “just playing at ecumenism”.

He said: “I propose that we will only have true ecumenism if Catholics and other Christian churches and communities together look at the bad things we have done to each other in the past. We need a truth and reconciliation commission, otherwise we are just playing at ecumenism by pretending that we haven’t got this past. We cannot airbrush our history out of existence with warm words and a positive spin on things.

“For this truth and reconciliation commission to work, the questions we have to ask are: have we truly got enough love to listen to each other? Do we really want to listen to the truth?”

Bishop O’Donoghue, who was speaking in Castlemartyr, County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, argued that progress towards unity depended on honesty.

“The difference between a functioning family and a dysfunctional family is a healthy, nurturing family that talks openly and honestly about problems, about behaviour that is causing upset and friction,” he said. Sometimes, its important to admit that we love each other, but don’t really like each other at times.”

Bishop O’Donoghue served as Bishop of Lancaster from 2001 to 2009. He retired to his native County Cork, where he now serves as an assistant priest in Bantry.

The bishop is famous for writing a series of frank assessments of the state of Catholicism in the north of England, known as Fit for Mission?, earning him the nickname “Prophet of the North”.