Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bishop Kieran Address Key Issues of Faith to Diocese

Bishop Kieran this weekend speaks about the forthcoming Golden Diocesan Jubilee in 2015, the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II and the Year of Faith in a Pastoral Letter to the Diocese:
"The recent celebration of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne seemed very characteristically British. The weather was what we almost expect for a Bank Holiday; it’s almost as if we want it to be miserable because deep down we feel the Protestants might be right that we shouldn’t be having time off and holidays, so we are being punished for it. But in the end the important thing was that we did something and had a public display of loyalty and affection for the Queen, with all the right elements – a few celebrities singing songs, public processions with all that sense of ritual and ceremony, a religious service and a wave from the balcony. And of course lots of bunting and flags and even a few street parties, and the weather was not going to stop any of this.

It might be just part of our laziness that we now call anything like this a Jubilee, rather than just an anniversary, albeit a big one. The word has an interesting history. The Latin jubilare came to mean rejoice, but the original meaning of the Latin word jubilum was a shout. The famous psalm 99 (or 100) is the Latin Jubilate Deo omnis terra, translated sometimes as “Cry out with joy to the Lord all the earth.” The Hebrew word yobel means ram or, by association, ram’s horn – psalm 98 says, “With trumpets and the sound of the horn acclaim the King, the Lord.”

I have said before that the word Jubilee in religious tradition goes back to the Old Testament, to the Book of Leviticus, where the text talks about a sabbatical year, a seventh year when the land is allowed to rest. Then after seven times seven years, there is a special year, a 5oth year called a Jubilee year. It begins with the sounding of trumpet. This is a year when other types of restoration take place: everyone is to return to his own clan or family, people are allowed to buy back land or slaves that they had sold. In other words, it is a time when change takes place, a time of renewal, a time for what we would now call ‘going back to basics’ as the people re-fashion their relationship with God. And God renews his promise: “For their sake I will remember the Covenant that I made with those first generations when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.. that I would be their God.”

The question was raised in one of the daily papers about the recent Jubilee celebrations, referring to the biblical Jubilee: will this celebration make any difference? Do we now simply move on to the next event, whether it is football, tennis or the Olympic and Paralympic Games and will the street parties be forgotten?

The celebration of our Diocesan Jubilee in 2015 has this very specific purpose in mind, that it will make a difference and will be a moment of renewal and restoration.. That’s why I’m asking you to be as much a part of it as you can. I am asking that you take part in the programmes over the next four years when we look at the four major documents of the Vatican Council, whose 50th anniversary coincides with the Jubilee of the diocese. The first words of the first document, and therefore the first words of the Second Vatican Council, set out its aims:

The Sacred Council has set out to impart an ever-increasing
vigour to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more closely
to the needs of our age those institutions which are subject to
change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who
believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call all
people into the Church’s fold (SC 1).
The four documents we are going to study together look at four vital ingredients of the life of the Church; they are the call to worship, the call to receive and proclaim God’s word, the call to form community and the call to accept the mission to bring Christ to the world.

The process will begin in practice in the Autumn, and I am inviting you to come to a meeting near you to find out what we are planning. The meetings are taking place in July in St Richard’s School in Bexhill, the Towers School in Beeding, near Steyning, St Peter’s School in Merrow and in DABCEC in Crawley. You will have information in your parishes and I look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it at one of the sessions. It will give me an opportunity to tell you more about what we hope to achieve.

By forming groups within your parishes, I hope that first of all there will be an opportunity to meet – this is something that the Queen’s Jubilee helped people to do. But I hope that the meeting will be an opportunity to talk about our faith. Why is it important to form community? Why do we go to Mass? How are we to respond to God’s word in the bible? And what do we mean by a mission to bring Christ to the world – are we honestly hoping to turn everybody into Christians and Catholics? I hope there will be space to speak about what we don’t understand or find it hard to believe, and I hope that this space will be a space where we will respect and trust one another.

This is a particular moment in the life of our diocese, and a moment that I think we must seize and make the most of. I think it will make a difference, in the way that the Renew programme did according to many of those who took part in it in the late 80s. Over 12,000 adults took part in small groups in the first season of the programme. I hope we can do as well.

At the beginning of this process, I stated what I hoped we would achieve in the celebration of the Jubilee of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton. This is what I wrote:

By 2015, we, the people of the diocese, will better understand
who we are and what we are called to do, and that, in turn, we will
bring about real change in the communities in which we live.
With my best wishes and prayers for you all."

Bishop Kieran

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