Fr Raniero Cantalamessa preached during the inauguarion of the Tenth General Synod in Westminster Abbey

The Pope’s personal preacher has praised the Reformation and said that moral issues such as sexuality, should not “divide us more than Jesus unites us.”

Speaking at Wesminster Abbey, during the inauguration of the Church of England’s Tenth General Synod, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, who has served as Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, praised the “theological and spiritual enrichment” of the Reformation.

He said: “We need to go back to the time of the Apostles: they faced a pre-Christian world, and we are facing a largely post-Christian world. When Paul wants to summarise the essence of the Christian message in one sentence, he does not say, “I proclaim this or that doctrine to you.” He says, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), and “We preach . . . Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5). This is the real “articulus stantis et cadentis Ecclesiae”, the article by which the Church stands or falls.

“This does not mean ignoring the great theological and spiritual enrichment that came from the Reformation or desiring to go back to the time before it. It means instead allowing all of Christianity to benefit from its achievements, once they are freed from certain distortions due to the heated atmosphere of the time and of later controversies.”

Addressing the Queen and the whole Synod, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa reflected on the preparations for the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation, saying, “it is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other’s rights and wrongs.”

He added: “Rather, let us take a qualitative leap forward, like what happens when the sluice gates of a river or a canal enable ships to continue to navigate at a higher water level.”

Fr Cantalamessa said that “we need to start again with the person of Jesus, humbly helping our contemporaries to experience a personal encounter with Him.” He added: “Christ is the light of the world, the one who gives meaning and hope to every human life – and the majority of people around us live and die as if He had never existed! How can we be unconcerned, and each remain “in the comfort of our own panelled houses”? We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than love for Jesus Christ unites us.”

Fr Cantalamessa has served under Benedict XVI and John Paul II.

You can read the full text of Fr Cantalamessa’s sermon here.