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Archbishop Longley tells synod: ecumenism makes us better evangelisers

By on Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Archbishop Bernard Longley, Bishop Michael Campbell and Bishop Kieran Conry at the English College in Rome (Photo: Mazur/

Archbishop Bernard Longley, Bishop Michael Campbell and Bishop Kieran Conry at the English College in Rome (Photo: Mazur/

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham delivered the following address on Monday:

I would like to refer to art. 125 of the Instrumentum Laboris which speaks of a “renewed commitment to ecumenism” as a fruit of the Church’s own transformation. One of the insights of the Second Vatican Council was the fresh ability of the Church to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit, not only in individual Christians but also acting in and through the churches and ecclesial communities to which they belong.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue and a growing common witness with others churches and ecclesial communities must also serve the new evangelization. Authentic dialogue promotes the conversion of heart that opens us to a relationship with others where the message of the Gospel can be more clearly expressed and more fruitfully received.

There can be no effective proclamation of faith without an attempt to understand how the message is likely to be heard, how it sounds to others. That involves a profound act of listening after the example of our Lord himself In the scriptures in a number of encounters with others he is described by the evangelist as “knowing what they were thinking” before speaking to his listeners.

That awareness of Christ precedes his teaching. It needs to be a characteristic of our teaching, insofar as we can discern under the influence of the Holy Spirit what people are thinking and present the Good News in a manner that helps it to be received.

At the same time there can be no dialogue without proclamation of our faith since dialogue is always reciprocal. The more effective and dedicated our dialogue with our brothers and sisters in other churches and ecclesial communities the more likely it is that we shall come to a comprehensive and deeper understanding of the cultures that we are sent to evangelize.

In most cities in England and Wales today there exist a multiplicity of cultures among ethnic groups living side by side. In many Catholic parishes there is no longer a dominant culture and we find African, Filipino, Vietnamese, Latin American and Anglo-Irish Catholics sometimes in equal numbers. That presents a challenge, for example in deciding what constitutes the most appropriate length of time for preaching.

On 9th October we celebrated in England the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman. He was received into the Catholic Church by Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist who had made England his home. Cardinal Newman was already intellectually certain of the claims of the Catholic Church but he needed to experience the holiness and the priestly ministry of Blessed Dominic before his heart was touched.

Cor ad cor loquitur – Heart speaks unto heart was more than a motto for Blessed John Henry Newman. At the deepest level he understood the people of his own time – he saw what they truly needed as well as the preoccupations that often distracted them from finding it. His Apologia pro Vita Sua was not only a proclamation of faith – it also described the pathway of dialogue that drew others to commit themselves more deeply to Christ.

The new evangelization is a mission that embraces all the baptized, clergy, religious and lay faithful. The laity need and deserve appropriate formation to become new evangelizers, equipped to proclaim the faith of the Church with clarity and confidence, but also secure enough in their faith to listen to and enter into dialogue with people of good will…

I am grateful that the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham is helping to equip men and women to be new evangelizers through its commitment to collaborative learning (the ecclesial equivalent of distance learning) and as a Pontifical Higher Institute of Religious Sciences.

Maryvale was Blessed John Henry Newman’s first home in Birmingham. May his prayers and the example of his life together with Blessed Dominic Barberi encourage and support us in the task of new evangelization.

  • nytor
  • Father Peter

    It is always necessary to evangelism, especially in an ecumenical context, to speak to others where they are and as they are. I am an Orthodox priest, and co-Secretary of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum. At the moment I am organising, with my Catholic co-Secretary, an Ecumenical Vespers of our Lady, to be held at St James, Spanish Place, on December 6th. Such an event depends on the open and honest dialogue between Catholics and Oriental Orthodox while treats each party to the conversation as worthy of understanding, even where there is disagreement.

    It seems to me that the frutifulness of the conversation between Catholic and Oriental Orthodox hierarchs and other representatives in the UK depends on the speaking to people as they are and in a way that will communicate, and this has relevance both from the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox perspective.

    It would be easy to reduce each other to a caricature, and proclaim the faith past each other. But seeking to understand what aspects of the life of Christ and his Gospel are present in the other community allows for a growth in genuine fellowship towards unity which is based on truth and love and does not require the compromise of any principles.

    Ecumenical conversations with other groups may well be less productive, but should surely always start with a desire to understand the other person and group, and respond to their own understanding, however faulty and diminished from the point of view of Apostolic faith.

  • Gildaswiseman

    I have had similar thoughts about his intransigent attitudes. Sandals and sand come to mind. 
    Enjoyed immensely your last publication. Carry on the good work, and may God bless you.

  • helen

    Well, on 23rd October 2012 I have heard that Bishop Williamson has just been expelled from the Society of St. Pius X so Hiker you can no longer use him to criticise the SSPX.

  • helen

    thank you nytor…I hadn’t read that.  What a scandal!  Seems to imply  Archbishop Nichols doesn’t really have the Catholic Faith in my book. That along with  his dubious comments about homosexuality during the Pope’s visit to Britain.  I suppose we should pray for him, and I do sometimes…but I must say I find it hard not to despise clerics who have no love of the traditional catholic faith. Do they believe in hell I wonder?

  • Matthewlinton_ford

     - Jesus was obedient to God the Father, not to Peter (the Pope).  Peter must be obedient to God also.  If Peter is not obedient to God, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said, we are to obey God before men.

    Allow me to demonstrate with a short quiz:

    1) If a pope tells you its morally acceptable to use male homosexual prostitutes, should you obey?  

    2) If a pope tells you its no problem if you homosexually rape a young boy who is serving at the altar?  Should you obey?  

    3) If a pope tells you to support an illegal war in which millions of innocent civilians are murdered? Should you obey?  

    4) How about two, three, four such wars? Should you obey? 

    5) If a pope tells you that you must not receive Jesus Christ God and Creator in the hand because your hands are not consecrated, but if you have lots of money and power like the queen of Denmark, then you can receive in the hand, should you obey? 

    6) If a pope tells you its ok to be a rapist and a paedophile and to live in these mortal sins, and that furthermore its ok if you also want to be a catholic priest?  Should you obey?   

    7) If the same pope tells you that because you object to his aforementioned teaching you will be excommunicated, refused communion, confession, and the sacraments, ostracised, laicised and persona non grata until you publicly reject your objections? Should you obey? 

    8) If a pope gives a Papal Knighthood to a non-catholic, and excommunicates an sspx priest, is the pope being obedient to God who said “I am God and you will not have false Gods before me”. 


    To conclude – Sweetjae – you are sugarcoating your support for paedophile rapist anti-christians – these things cry to heaven for vengeance. Look it up in your Catholic Catechism.  Thats the real Magesterium.  And if the pope disagrees then I’m sorry but hes wrong.  But He is not so stupid that he would say it out loud, hes more the sneaky type that says one thing and does another.