Thursday, 28 February 2013

Farewell and Prayers for Pope Benedict XVI

Farewell and Prayers for Pope Benedict as he retires as Bishop of Rome and our Pope

Pope's Last Angelus: The Barque of the Church, is guided by God

The last words of Pope Benedict in English at his audience on Wednesday.

Also Pope Benedict Promises to Pray for UK Faithful

In the last days of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has written to Archbishop Vincent Nichols promising to pray for the Catholic faithful of England and Wales and expressing his thanks and gratitude for the support and prayers he has received since announcing his decision to resign.

His words came in a letter, written by Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the current Substitute for General Affairs to the Vatican's Secretariat of State, penned in response to Archbishop Nichols' letter to the Holy Father thanking him for his Apostolic Ministry as Supreme Pontiff and saluting his courage and integrity at stepping down from the See of Peter.

Pope Benedict also wrote of his warm memories of his historic State Visit to the UK in 2010 and the "many graces received during those four days."

Full Text from the Vatican, 20 February 2013

Your Grace,
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has received the letter that you sent to him on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales on the occasion of his resignation from office, and he has asked me to reply in his name.

He appreciates the sentiments that you expressed and he is grateful for the support of your prayers. He recalls with gratitude the welcome extended to him on his historic visit to your country in September 2010, and he continues to give thanks to God for the many graces received during those four days.

His Holiness promises to pray for all of you and for the people entrusted to your pastoral care, and he willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
+ Angelo Becciu

You can see live coverage of Pope Benedict's last day here

And yes I know it is Barque not Bark!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Notre Dame Girls Willing to Rise to a Challenge!

Notre dame girls with guests at Women in the Arts event
When it comes to raising £100 million to save famous Titian paintings for the nation, you need to find a Notre Dame girl to rise to the challenge. Former pupil Sarah Ward, now Director of Public Affairs and Development at the National Gallery, explained to an enthusiastic audience of current pupils how the school had prepared her to face the big challenges in life.

The packed audience in the school’s new Montaigne Theatre were treated to an afternoon of fascinating talks about the role of Women in the Arts, starting with a bird’s eye view from Vikki Heywood, Chair of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), formerly Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). At the RSC she was responsible for the rebuilding of the theatres in Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford upon Avon. This huge project was a far cry from her early days in the RSC as a stage manager and she inspired the girls with her stories of taking chances and seizing opportunities to build her career.

Another Notre Dame alumnus, Lara Cowin, gave an entertaining introduction to the world of the professional actor, whilst Roxane Cressy explained the role of the theatre wardrobe department and workroom in a large organisation like English National Opera. Roxane also teaches at the London College of Fashion and was able to give tips on portfolios and applications.

The event was held as part of the Sixth Form General Studies programme, organised by Mrs Mary Lewis, English Teacher, Careers Advisor and Assistant Head of Sixth Form. Notre Dame School, Cobham is well known for its commitment to and achievements in the Performing and Visual Arts. Following this event, pupils have some clear ideas of career paths that they could follow whilst pursuing their passion for these subjects.

Eleanor Keighley-Elstub, Deputy Head Girl, said “All the women were extremely fascinating and engaging speakers, giving realistic insights into the different kind of careers in the arts. It was a motivating session that inspired many pupils.”

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Altar Servers - Enrolment in Guild of St Stephen

New members of Guild of St Stephen being enrolled by Fr Chris Spain
At a special Mass on the Feast of St. Stephen, youngsters from our three communities were enrolled in the Guild of which he is patron, and Claire Franklin, M.C. at St. Teresa's, Merstham, received the silver medal awarded to those who have served for 10 years. Claire has served for longer, but was not at first a member of the Guild.

St. Joseph's, Redhill, being the largest community with the most Masses, the altar servers are trained chiefly by Anne Evans. They start with simple things like practicing walking and kneeling properly, and then progress to trial serving with Anne or another adult taking the part of the priest. Finally they are gradually added to the servers rota.

At St. Teresa's numbers are much smaller and servers learn as they go, under the careful guidance of Claire. Francesca, 10, said "It was difficult when I first started because there were times when I was the only one, and I didn't always know what to do. Now I am quite confident because I know how to do everything" Tom really enjoys being close to the action rather than at a distance in the congregation.

At the same Mass our recently appointed priest, Fr. Aaron Spinelli, read and signed his Oath of Fidelity.

Text Ann Lardeur Photo Janet Franklin. (Silver Medallist Claire Franklin extreme right)

Monday, 25 February 2013

Lenten Fasting in the Eastern Catholic Churches

Following on from the previous blog story on the Catholic Church situation especially the Melkite Greek Catholic community here are the appendices from His Beatitude Gregorios III's Letter for Lent on fasting and Lent:

1. Fasting rules
In order to be useful, we give here a brief presentation of the rule of fasting and abstinence, of the different kinds of abstinence and the basic rules on this subject in the Oriental tradition of the Eastern Church and its application in our Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

Great Lent in the Ancient Discipline of the Church
The days of fasting (abstinence) are the days of Wednesday and Friday of the Carnival Week before Cheesefare Week and Monday through Friday of the weeks of Lent and of Great and Holy Week, except the day when the Annunciation falls (25 March).

Great and Holy Saturday is the only Saturday on which one must keep a fast. It is forbidden to fast on the other Saturdays of the year, because Saturday (Sabbath) is a holy day linked with the day of the Resurrection (Sunday).

Days of abstinence are for the whole time of Great Lent, including Sundays and during all of Holy Week, unless the Annunciation falls then, except Palm Sunday, when fish may be eaten.

The Meaning of Fasting and Abstinence
Fasting is abstinence from any food and drink from midnight until Vespers. So the person fasting eats a single meal a day after Vespers or after the Liturgy of the Presanctified, or at midday after the Festal or Sunday Liturgy.

Eucharistic or sacramental fasting in its deepest meaning is linked to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and to Holy Communion. According to the ancient tradition, anyone presenting himself for Holy Communion should have fasted by abstaining from all food and drink. In fact, communion finishes or brings to a close the fast. One can say that it breaks the fast, whether after a day of fasting or during Great Lent. In that case the person fasting ends his day and his fast by celebrating the Presanctified Liturgy, which is the service of Vespers with solemn communion. In the same way, the Fasts of the Preparation for Christmas and for Epiphany end with the Divine Liturgy, preceded by the service of Vespers. In the same way, the fast of the last three days of Great and Holy Week ends with Paschal Communion on Easter morning.

Abstinence is abstinence from meat and gravy, dairy products, eggs, milk, cheese and butter, whilst fish is permitted on some days: 25 March and Palm Sunday. Wine and oil are permitted on certain days.

The Wisdom of Fasting
The Holy Fathers of the Church consider Great Lent or the Great Fast of the Great Days as a carrying out of the tithe for God. Forty days is almost a tenth of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. In fact, we read in the commandments, to carry out the tithe and receive blessing. (Deuteronomy 12:6-7) To that we add the Advent Fast, the Apostles’ Fast and the Dormition Fast. The different fasts fall in all four seasons of the year to sanctify the whole year. The Advent Fast is in autumn, the Great Fast of forty days is mostly in winter, the Apostles’ Fast is in late spring and the Fast of the Dormition in summer.

So the faithful Christian who observes the different fasts remains in a continuous relationship with the spiritual and ascetic exercises and in a spiritual watchfulness to enable the Holy Spirit to work in him. In the same way he keeps his fitness of soul and body together.

Many people seek out doctors and scientists to get information relevant for keeping their bodily good health but we should not be at all surprised to find that the wisdom of the Church in distributing the fasts is absolutely in agreement with medical instructions and even superior to their advice, for it is aimed at health of soul and body. So is fulfilled the saying of the great master Jesus, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33) And again he says, “It is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) That was the reply of Jesus to the tempter in the desert. St. Paul says, explaining the true meaning of Lent, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) And he also says, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (I Corinthians 6:20)

The Canon and Discipline of Fasting and Abstinence in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Our Holy Synods have more than once dealt with the question of fasting and abstinence, especially between 1949-54. General guidance was given, above all, after Vatican II, that each local bishop organise the discipline of fasting and abstinence suitable to his eparchy.

Despite different dispensations which were put in place for different situations in life, the discipline of fasting according to the old, Eastern tradition remains firm and, thank God, fairly well practised in many monastic religious institutions, among the clergy and faithful.

We have presented in this letter the wisdom of Lent according to the ancient discipline. Some eparchies apply dispensations, so that people fast in the first week and on the last three days of Holy Week. With all the respect that we have for the authority of each eparchial bishop to put in place the discipline suitable for his eparchy, we would like to remind everyone of what the canon law particular to us says in Article Number 107, which corresponds to canon 888 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches: “We exhort the faithful to take on the discipline of fasting and abstinence noted in the liturgical books.” That is what we have explained above and that is what our fathers and ancestors always practised. But we do not wish to make anyone’s conscience heavy but rather leave to each one of our children, our sons and daughters, to organise himself his own method of fasting and abstinence according to the circumstances of his own life, his work and his health.

On the other hand we exhort everyone, bishops, priests, monks and nuns and our children, the sons and daughters in our parishes, to fast according to the old tradition for fasting will never be for us the cause of death and it will not hurt at all our health. On the contrary, it is good for all, for soul and body.

However, for the sick, or someone in a special situation it is his conscience which must be his guide as to how to practise Lent. He can also ask the advice of his parish priest.

That is why we address ourself to everyone, “Do not be afraid of fasting. Make of this time of preparation for the Feast of Pascha some of the most beautiful days of your life.”

And we exhort everyone, priests, monks and nuns, monasteries and families not only to abide by the laws of ecclesiastical fasting but moreover to live during this Lenten time a simple life with regard to food and drink, jewellery, cosmetics and clothing, so that we have recourse to all methods of creating an atmosphere of piety, compunction and inner peace in all aspects of our life.

Apart from physical fasting, we call upon you to put Christian spiritual living into practice with depth, conviction and joy. Here are some ways of doing this:
more personal, deeper prayer in the home and in church and above all, participation in Great Compline and the Akathist
practising fasting and abstinence to the best of one’s capability
exercising bodily and spiritual mortification in different ways
living out brotherly charity in social relations
approaching the holy Mysteries
alms-giving and benefaction, each according to his possibilities and condition of life.

We recommend to all, with St. Paul, to leave the works of darkness to put on the armour of light. We are all sinners in need of metanoia (penitence) and to be rid of sin, passions and everything that enslaves us with regard to food and drink, clothing, pleasure, jealousy, anger, hatred, vengeance, disputes, pride, obstinacy, calumny, stupidity, amusements and superficiality. He who commits sin is not free, but is the slave of sin. The period of Lent is a period of purity, holiness, prayer and liberation from sin, evil and corruption.

If we do all this, our period of Lent is welcome and we sanctify the days of Lent and are illumined by the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, giving witness to Jesus in our society. Brothers and sisters, do penance, make yourselves holy, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Here is a time very pleasing to God, a time of salvation. It is the period of Lent which comes to us as a spiritual spring-time, preparing us to shine with the light of the glorious Resurrection and the saving Passover.

2. Special Celebrations for Lent
Presanctified Liturgy
According to ancient Byzantine church tradition, the fast-days of the Lenten period are days when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated as a sign of repentance.

However, in order to allow the faithful to receive communion, consecrated elements are carefully preserved after the Sunday Divine Liturgy and offered on fast-day evenings, at Vespers during the Liturgy of the Presanctified, meaning that the elements are already consecrated. This Liturgy, which is in fact Vespers is followed by communion, therefore includes no Eucharistic consecration.

Great Compline
It should also be noted that Great Compline is served on the five first days of Lent.

On Friday evening of the first five weeks of Lent, the Akathist to the Most Holy Mother of God is sung in all churches.

Liturgy of Saint Basil
The Liturgy of Saint Basil is celebrated:
On the first five Sundays of Lent
On Great and Holy Thursday
On Great and Holy Saturday

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Letter of His Beatitude Gregorios III from Syria for Lent

His Beatitude, Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Of Alexandria and Jerusalem (on left) with His Beatitude, the Retired, Maximos V, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Of Alexandria and Jerusalem (on right)
It is good to remember our brothers and sisters in Syria who are suffering at this time and so below is the Letter of Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III - It is quite a long letter, but well worth the read:

Gregorios, by the grace of God,  Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem:
To my brother bishops, members of the Holy Synod
and all the faithful clergy and laity of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 3)
Come ye faithful! Let us work the works of God in light. (Friday Vespers, First Week)
While fasting with the body, brethren, let us also fast in spirit. (Wednesday Vespers, First Week)

Solidarity in Faith and Charity
Through these and many similar words, the voice and words of our holy Fathers, our Mother Church exhorts and invites us to practise the blessed virtue of fasting, which is the soul’s springtime. In my turn, I address to the sons and daughters of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, pastors and faithful, this quadragesimal letter entitled, “Solidarity in Faith and Charity.”

Today, faced with the disasters evidenced by our Arab countries, we have especial need of solidarity, expressed through these words of Saint Paul, “… whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 26) Today the members of this same one body, the whole Church, or most of it, is suffering. Members of the homeland are suffering! Our families are suffering.

That is why we are all called to solidarity in the Lenten services, where we read, Those who show compassion to the poor, lend to the Saviour with awakened understanding, as it is written. What indescribable joy! For God grants them for eternity abundant recompense for their alms. (Meatfare Tuesday). Through fasting let us all ascend the mountain of virtuous action, forsaking the sensual temptations that creep upon the ground. Let us enter into the darkness of holy visions; by the divine and mystical ascent, let us become godlike and let us look upon Christ our beloved in his beauty. (Tuesday of the First Week of Lent: Matins, Canticle Two). While fasting with the body, brethren, let us also fast in spirit. Let us loose every bond of iniquity; let us undo the knots of every contract made by violence; let us tear up all unjust agreements; let us give bread to the hungry and welcome to our house the poor who have no roof to cover them, that we may receive great mercy from Christ our God. (Wednesday of the First Week of Lent: Vespers Sticheron Tone 8)

The situation in the EparchiesThe current situation in Syria has exceeded the scope of limited aid. Here is a description of the tragic situation in our Syrian eparchies. We need to be informed about it, both within our Church, in the Arab world beyond and in emigration countries. The news reaching you through the media does not adequately express the catastrophic situation that citizens in general and our parishioners in particular are experiencing in the eparchies of Homs, Lattakieh, Safita and Marmarita (Christian Valley with 143 villages), Aleppo, the Hauran and Damascus.

Many of our faithful have been abducted, and have had to pay big sums as ransom in order to be freed. One hundred of our faithful have been killed, martyred, and 1000 Christians of all communities. Twenty churches have been destroyed, damaged, laid waste, abandoned, in the above-mentioned regions, and the Divine Liturgy can no longer be celebrated. The faithful have left them, the priests have gone, as they can no longer gain access to these churches, nor have the parishes been able to hold services, for the last year or more.

To all this should be added displaced citizens in general. It is said that they number about two million. They are scattered everywhere. They pay exorbitant rents, not finding work. They have lost their homes, their jobs, their factories, shops and means of livelihood…In addition we have poor people due to the economic crisis caused by the reduction of revenue and price increases.… Besides this, many of our faithful have left Syria for neighbouring countries, and for Europe or America.

This is but a pale reflection of the situation of our parishes. Let us add to that the situation of our students who are pursuing their studies with great difficulties, because of the perils around schools. Some schools have been closed or moved to safer places, but less appropriate for teaching, including our new school in Damascus (at Mleiha on the road to the airport), with 2200 pupils, which we have transferred to our old patriarchal school within the Cathedral precincts. The school was hit by three rockets, causing heavy damage. Let us not mention the state of mind that overwhelms our parishes: doubt – fear – apprehension – suspense – depression – despondency … the loss of a husband, mother, daughter, relative, friend, abductee, displaced person…

There follows a list of regions and areas damaged or laid waste to various extents:
· Eparchy of Homs: the bishop’s palace, the majority of churches and church institutions in the city of Homs, Qusair, Dmeineh Sharqieh, Rableh, the St. Elijah Sanctuary, Jousi, Yabroud, Krak des Chevaliers, Christian Valley. 

· Eparchy of Aleppo: the bishop’s palace, churches, institutions, the (Christian) Salibi district.

· Damascus and environs: Zabadani, Harasta, Daraya (my hometown), Douma, Ain Terma, Qassaa (in Damascus) and other localities.

Churches to the rescue
All churches have been mobilised to come to the aid of citizens, including our own parishioners. We have knocked on every door, both locally, in the East and in the West, everywhere, to gather together the wherewithal to be able to continue our service and duty to our faithful, and indeed to all those who turn to us without distinguishing between one or other Muslim and Christian denomination. We renew our thanks to all who have helped us, whether within or outside Syria.

We don’t know how we shall be able to continue the various aid programmes: equipment, food, heat, rent, school fees, medicines, etc… That is why we are writing this letter at the beginning of Great Lent, to point out some aspects of the tragedy of our homeland, especially our parishes, and to make aware the sons and daughters of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church throughout the world and enable them to share in this concern and these heavy responsibilities incumbent upon us as Patriarch and on our brothers, especially the Pastors of our Eparchies in Syria.

Appeal for solidarity
For Christmas 2012, we launched an appeal for solidarity, of which this is the main part:
As Christmas draws near, given the present situation of our faithful in Syria, I address my brother Bishops in our Eparchies in Arab countries and worldwide, our male and female religious congregations, priests, monks, and nuns and lay-persons, especially businessmen and women who have global relations at various levels!

I call upon them to show solidarity with our faithful in Syria, to help us meet the immediate, urgent needs, especially of internally displaced persons in the country. We ought to think also of the future, when we shall have to cope with more serious problems, such as
- Rebuilding or repairing damage to our churches (especially in the Eparchy of Homs)

- Rebuilding or repairing damage to many institutions, presbyteries, old people’s homes…

- Rebuilding or repairing the homes of thousands of our faithful, in co-operation with the state and other organisations. 

- Coping with problems such as rent, costs of education, health care. 

Your aid can be given as monetary donation, advice, a word to persons able to help, NGOs, associations, institutions… Your help is valuable! Your solidarity is vital! We put great trust in you! Help us to help and serve, to console and support our Christians in their land, homeland and homes, in this country which is rightly called the cradle of Christianity.

 Solidarity Committee
So we found it necessary to form a central Solidarity Committee in Syria under our patronage to bring about the content of this appeal. We propose the formation of a committee also in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, among others, and also in the eparchies of the expansion, and in our parishes in Western Europe. 

We hope that our brother Bishops will help us with this and propose names of business-people and people of global influence and relations to be members of local committees.  We hope thereby to be well-prepared and practically to cope with future challenges awaiting our faithful and our Christian presence.

Solidarity: an act of Faith
Solidarity finds its source in the faith that we are one Church, one body, one Christian family, one single homeland. Faith is expressed in good works, especially through effective charity towards those in need. Those in need are our Church’s children.

The Holy Father calls for that in his letter for Lent this year entitled, “Believing in love arouses charity.” We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. (cf. 1 John 4: 16). Faith without love is like a barren tree: both virtues require one another. Lent invites us to grow in charity, in love of God and neighbour, through practical directions for fasting, prayer and charitable giving.

Today solidarity is more needful than ever: hence our appeal to all Christians of the Middle East, in all countries and denominations. We have to unite in solidarity in order to cope with the challenges of current situations of our sons and daughters, and to preserve the Christian presence, and to cope with emigration that is likely to empty the Christian East of Arab Christians.

The great problem of today is “to be or not to be”! Our appeal to form a committee of solidarity in our eparchies in Arab countries is a matter intimately linked to the future of Christians in the Middle East: a matter of life or death!

We are determined to be optimistic! Our solidarity everywhere is the real remedy against pessimism, fear, discouragement, frustration, despair, doubt… Solidarity is the real proof to show that we are a “strong, coherent Church,” capable of coping with difficulties, however great, because it is trained in faith and charity, and in trust in Divine Providence that assures us, “But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” (Luke 21: 18) 

St Paul’s Experience of Calamities
St Paul experienced many dramatic situations, similar to what we are experiencing in Syria and perhaps even more so, as he described in his letters. In spite of that he remained steadfast in his convictions based on his faith in the Gospel and his love for Jesus, as we read in this passage: 'For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh'. (2 Corinthians 4:6-11)

Let us stay in contact Brothers and sisters! It is to this that I am calling you at the beginning of this Lent. We shall inform you through our website and means of contact about the results of our efforts to form the central solidarity committee; for it will be the lifeline for our presence, witness, communion and service in this East, the cradle of Christianity.

Solidarity for Communion and Witness
Through this letter, we call upon the efforts of everyone everywhere together to find all the means to cope with the challenges. We appeal too to our Muslim brothers to support our efforts to preserve the Christian presence with them and for them. They well know how important and effectual this Christian presence has been and still is in the history of the Arab world at every level. 

They know how much our educational, cultural, health, religious, social and intellectual institutions, are in the service of all citizens without distinction. That is all threatened with disappearing if the Christian presence were to vanish from the region. Christian solidarity should then be Muslim-Christian solidarity, as the aim is to serve our society, our Arab homelands without distinction, as was the case throughout history. We Muslims and Christians should be in solidarity for a better future for our rising generations.

It was said of the early Christians, especially in Antioch, where they were first called Christian: “See! How they love one another.” We need this witness today. This love is indeed the lifeline for the Church in the Middle East to enable it to be “communion and witness.” This was the topic of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and the synthesis of the Synod for the Middle East that we held in Rome in October 2010, on the eve of the outbreak of crises in the Middle East.

Watch and walk in love
Dear friends! I’d like to remind you of my patriarchal and priestly motto: “Watch and walk in love.” Now we are all called to make this patriarchal motto, the motto of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Scripture tells us: “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” (1 John 5: 4) to which I add, “Our love is the victory.”

That is my appeal at the beginning of this blessed Great Lent, on our arduous road, the way of the cross of our country, Syria, and of our Arab countries, the cross of our faithful, towards the joys and hopes of the Resurrection, of the springtime of the Resurrection. 

In conclusion, we call upon everyone, as we usually do, to practise fasting, abstinence, prayers, self-denial, ascesis, good works, and to grow in virtue, compassion, forgiveness, perseverance and love.  

Solidarity in Lenten prayersWe renew our call to fast and pray as we did in our Christmas Letter, 2012, especially to hold daily prayers in all our churches for reconciliation, dialogue, peace and security in Syria and all our Arab countries. Our conviction is firm: reconciliation is the lifeline. The real victory for us all will come when we reject weapons and halt the flow of arms, from wherever they come. This will be the preliminary to reconciliation.

Once more, we should like to hear the voice of our holy Fathers, the voice of piety, of faith, hope and charity: 'Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendour of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. So, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day, that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life'. (Monday of the First Week of Lent: Sessional Hymn Tone 2)

Holy Lent to each and all.

With my blessing, affection and prayer! 

Gregorios III, Patriarch

The rules of fasting in Lent in the Melkite Catholic Church will follow in a separate Blog story

Friday, 22 February 2013

Florence flies high with her flute!

The Towers Convent School reports:
Florence (Chapman) from East Preston and who is in Year 11 (at The Towers Convent School) has just become the first girl in the school to have letters after her name. She is now able to write Dip ABRSM whenever she signs her name! Florence sat her diploma of the Associated Boards of the Royal Schools of Music in late December and found out this week that she had been successful. 

The examination consisted of three sections - a thirty minute recital on her flute, a viva voce on some programme notes she had written as well as a sight reading test. Florence, who already has Grade 8 flute, Grade 8 violin and Grade 6 piano, is the Music Prefect and has recently organised a flute choir one lunch-time each week. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Real Easter Eggs

Churches, schools and individuals are being asked to change a life by giving a Real Easter Egg this year.

Out of the 80 million chocolate Easter eggs sold each year in the UK, The Real Easter Egg is the first and only Fairtrade chocolate egg to explain the meaning of Easter and it remains a unique way to share the Easter story.

This year the Real Easter Egg has a free activity pack in the box which includes the Easter story, activity poster, free i-tune download and a sticker set. The resurrection text from Mark can also be found inside the lid along with the greeting ‘Happy Easter!’

The Real Easter Egg is now in its third year of production with more than 200,000 sold so far. Last year stories began to emerge of people whose life had been changed after being given a Real Easter Egg.

A charity worker, from the North of England, said; “The first time I visited clients, half way through the visit the bailiffs arrived and they were really scared….we had a long chat about Easter after I’d taken a Real Easter Egg for the boys. Both of them went to church this Sunday and were given a Bible. The mum sent a really lovely text after the visit saying she was sure God had sent us.”

A grandmother from Oxfordshire gave an egg and explained; “Tracy saw the book that was included in The Real Easter Egg and wanted her mum to read the story to her… The following week Tracy attended Sunday School.”

But it is not only at home that lives have been transformed, with each sale of The Real Easter Egg a donation is made to Traidcraft Exchange to support some of the poorest farmers in the world - over £40,000 has been donated so far. A Fairtrade Premium is also paid to farmers allowing them to invest in their community buying everything, from school books and solar panels, to providing fresh water supplies.

Last year churches across the UK joined the campaign to establish the first religious Easter Egg. Congregations promoted the egg, put sign-up lists in church, took orders, money and placed a direct order. More than 90,000 eggs were delivered through the post to churches in this way. Each Real Easter Egg costs £3.99 for a 125g milk chocolate egg and incudes the free activity pack in the box and a 15 pence donation to Traidcraft Exchange. 

The buying options are below:
· Church and school bulk orders – if ordering 6 or more eggs then either visit the official online shop at (order by 14th February 2013 and get free delivery), or buy through your Traidcraft Fair-trader or contact one of the independent shops listed on the check the How to Buy section at 
· Pick up one or two eggs while supermarket shopping – you will only find 12 eggs on supermarket shelves at any one time. Check the How to Buy section at to see which supermarkets, if any, are stocking the egg
· For individual orders check the How to Buy section at and pay by debit or creditcard.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Face of Welcome on the way to Santiago

Elizabeth and Mildred acting as welcomers on the route
Every year about 200,000 pilgrims walk at least 100 kms to the tomb of St James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain. Half of this number are Spanish and many of the others come from English speaking countries. Therefore from May to October this year volunteers came to live and work in Santiago for periods of two weeks to offer words of “welcome” and “congratulations” to all of the footsore pilgrims on their arrival and also to offer advice, information and support to English speaking pilgrims. 

Two of these recent volunteers were Elizabeth Sprigg and Mildred Rowell from St Thomas of Canterbury parish and St. Mary's Crowborough parish in Mayfield Deanery.

See here to learn more about the Pilgrimage to Santiago

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bishop Kieran to Offer Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict with Bishop Kieran during Ad Limina visit
Bishop Kieran will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 24 February at 11.15am in Arundel Cathedral. People who wish to join with the Bishop in giving thanks are welcome to attend the Mass next Sunday.

Bishop Kieran said: "I was at a church in Merstham, Surrey just after the news of Pope Benedict's resignation was released, and I know that parishioners were genuinely sad to hear the news.

I think that the pope's visit to this country in 2010 particularly endeared him to us all, and it is sad to think that his health is such that he feels he can't carry on serving as the successor of St Peter. At the same time I think we all admire his courage as the only pope in memory to resign from office.

I am sure that we all wish him well when he does finally step down, and pray that the Lord will preserve him for some years still and give him health of mind and body. "

You can still read of the Pope's resignation here.

There are additional prayers and resources available both for the current Pope, the Conclave and the future Pope from the Bishops' Conference Liturgy website.

Picture shows the Pope with Bishop Kieran during his ad limina visit to Rome (c)Osservatore Romano

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Catholics Come Home - Great Video

Thought people might like to see this American video about Catholics. Why not share with friends.
You can find out more about the Catholic faith at

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Path of Peter - New Exhibition in Rome

Icon of St Peter from Sinai Monastery
A unique art exhibition aimed at giving “voice to the nostalgia for God” found in modern culture will open at Castel Sant’Angelo tomorrow as part of the Year of Faith.

The exhibit will bring together works from nine countries and will allow visitors to both contemplate beauty and “have an important meeting with the image of Peter,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization told CNA on Feb. 5.

That encounter with St. Peter, he added, will give viewers a chance to grow in faith.

The exhibition, called “The Path of Peter,” was introduced by Archbishop Fisichella at the Holy See press office on Feb. 5. It features pieces that range from the 4th and 5th centuries all the way until the 20th century.

“First of all, it's good to explain the 'why' of this exhibit,” Archbishop Fisichella said, underscoring that the aim of the show is to reinforce the desire for God that is present in everyone’s heart.

The new evangelization council decided to organize the exhibit because “Peter is the image of humanity that seeks and that finds and that, after having found, follows,” the archbishop said.

“Looking upon the work of art, believers and non-believers have different reactions, but beauty expresses a call to one and all to listen to the message that can be perceived in the silence of contemplation,” he observed.

The Path of Peter exhibition will last from Feb. 6 until May 1 and is taking place at Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome.

The president of the new evangelization council also offered some insights into the contemporary cultural situation.

He believes that the current moment is “strongly characterized by contradictory movements ... On the one hand it seems that there is a general feeling of fatigue and indifference that even affects our faith” and assumes faith is no longer relevant.

“On the other hand,” he noted, “there is the excessive enthusiasm for scientific progress and new lifestyles as if these were the solutions to today's serious problems.”

The conclusion that is frequently presented in response to these desires is to say that “it is good to limit faith's sphere to the private, denying its social or cultural effect.”

And yet, Archbishop Fisichella said that the desire for transcendent beauty remains strong, a fact that can be seen in the constant demand for the beauty of nature and works of art.

Looking ahead to the rest of Pope Benedict's Year of Faith – which lasts until Nov. 24 – Archbishop Fisichella said his council is planning several events in Rome that will “testify that faith is not just something private, but on the contrary, is something that is lived together with the community, and also as a public sign for the world.”

Launched on Oct. 11 of 2012, the Pope's Year of Faith marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and has been heralded as an opportunity for Catholics to renew their faith in order to share it more fully with those around them.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Bishop Kieran on Pope's Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Kieran during his Ad Limina viist
(c)Osservatore Romano
Bishop Kieran was visiting Merstham Easter Project in Surrey which provides a free hot meal every Monday for people in need. Unexpected arrivals were camera man and reporter from ITV (Meridian) to interview Bishop Kieran on the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict. he interview took place in St. Teresa's Church, Merstham.

Bishop Kieran said: "I was at a church in Merstham, Surrey just after the news of Pope Benedict's resignation was released, and I know that parishioners were genuinely sad to hear the news.

I think that the pope's visit to this country in 2010 particularly endeared him to us all, and it is sad to think that his health is such that he feels he can't carry on serving as the successor of St Peter. At the same time I think we all admire his courage as the only pope in memory to resign from office.

I am sure that we all wish him well when he does finally step down, and pray that the Lord will preserve him for some years still and give him health of mind and body. "

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope Benedict to Resign

Radio Vatican announces:

Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation at end of month

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.

Full text of Pope's declaration

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


Listen to Pope Benedict XVI make his announcement here in Latin

The Four Big IFs

As Catholics we are called to speak out against injustice and the people of A&B have always cared for those less fortunate than ourselves. Many of our supporters recently joined us for the spectacular launch of a new campaign called “Enough Food For Everyone IF”. This will be the biggest campaign since “Make Poverty History”. Currently, 112 agencies have come together to challenge the Prime Minister and the G8 leaders to tackle four ‘big IFs’. There would be enough food for everyone:

 - IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and use land to grow food for people, not biofuels for cars;

- IF governments keep their promises on aid and help the poorest people feed themselves through investment in small farmers;

 - IF governments close loopholes to stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries;

- IF we force governments and investors to be honest and open about the deals they make in the poorest countries.

CAFOD’s “Hungry For Change” campaign is related to the second of the big ‘IFs’ and runs alongside IF, please take part in both campaigns as they both shine a light on this important issue.

For more information and to be part of IF, go to – and look out for details of a major event when the UK hosts the G8 meeting in June. Let us make 2013 the beginning of the end of global hunger. #IF

Article by Roger Morton

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The New Leader of Catholic Chaldean Church in Iraq

Archbishop Louis Sako
The new leader of Iraq’s largest Christian community has been   hailed as 'a man of courage' who will give new hope to a people who have suffered a decade of bloody persecution – according to a leading Catholic charity.
Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the appointment of Archbishop Louis Sako, 64, as Patriarch Raphael I of Baghdad of the Chaldeans on Saturday (2 February), two days after an election held in Rome for the post of leader of the largest Catholic community in Iraq.
Describing Aid to the Church in Need’s long and fruitful relationship with the new patriarch, especially during his nearly 10 years as Archbishop of Kirkuk, Fr Andrzej Halemba, the charity's Head of Middle East Projects, described him as “the right man for the job”.
He said: “Louis Sako is a messenger of peace and dialogue. He is most definitely a man of courage. Problems only seem to make him work harder.”
Fr Halemba added: “Christians are continuing to leave the country. There must be some personality who can give them back their hope. Louis Sako is the right man for the job.”
Aid to the Church in Need staff spoke of the new patriarch’s “unwavering determination”, referring to how as a young priest he took his petition to teach Christianity in his parish all the way to President Saddam Hussein who met him to discuss the matter.
John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need's UK Head of Press and Information, who has known the new patriarch for nearly 10 years, meeting him in Kirkuk, Rome and the UK, said: “Archbishop Sako is a man who encompasses so many different qualities – on the one hand rigorous scholarship and on the other abiding pastoral concern.
“He is passionate in his defence of the truth and the needs of the people – these are the hallmarks of this man who is always so humble. But above all, the new patriarch is a man of faith, who is committed to the way of the Lord. For these reasons, his election will I am sure give the people great hope. The story of his meeting with Saddam Hussein for me illustrates Patriarch Sako’s courage and determination, qualities that will be needed as he acts as shepherd to his scattered flock.”
The then Fr Sako’s encounter with Saddam came when he demanded to see the President following government refusal to allow him to teach religion. Saddam refused his request but the then Fr Sako responded by doing a separate doctorate and, because it had little religious content, the government gave him the all-important teaching licence.
As patriarch, he will need similar determination to deal with the challenges of today.
Christians in Iraq are less than 300,000, down from below 800,000 a decade ago and 1.4 million at the last census in 1987. Reports released last year showed that since 2003 more than 70 churches in Iraq have been attacked, most of them bombed – 44 in Baghdad and 19 in the northern city of Mosul.
In interviews given since his election, Patriarch Raphael I has pledged to work for unity – not just within the Chaldean Churchbut also with Orthodox communities. Stressing the Chaldean Church’s many difficulties in times of huge upheaval and oppression, he told AsiaNews: “Together with the bishops of the Chaldean Church, we shall work for unity and renewal.”
Patriarch Raphael I Sako replaces Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, 85, who resigned for reasons of age.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lent Reflection Booklet Available - Be Reconciled to God

This Lent's reflection booklet from the Adult Formation Department is available to either order from the Diocesan Bookshop or to download from the Diocesan Website

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Catholic Church Comment on Same-Sex Marriage Bill

On behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales commenting on the recent commons vote Archbishop Peter Smith said:
"The Catholic Church continues to support marriage understood by society for centuries as the significant and unique lifelong commitment between a man and a woman for their mutual well-being and open to the procreation and education of children. Marriage is rooted in the complementarity of man and woman. For these reasons the Church opposes the Government’s Bill to re-define marriage. Despite claims by supporters of the Bill that the central issue is one of equality, the Bill actually seeks to re-define marriage and will have consequences for society at large.

 "It became clear during today's debate in the House of Commons that the government has not thought through a number of profound problems in the Bill raised by members of Parliament during the debate. It will be extremely important that the many concerns we and others have expressed will be fully and carefully considered during the next stages of the Bill's passage through Parliament."

Please continue to lobby Government and MPs about this issue. See Bishops' Conference website

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Marriage Minutes 03: Further redefinitions

Given the result of last night's vote on the second reading of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill the Coalition for Marriage warns of some of the possible consequences in this video.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Making it Fair and Square - School Meal Campaign

The Catholic Education Service (CES) and Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) are part of the Fair and Square Campaign, which aims to ensure a free school meal for every child who needs one. Free school meals are essential for children’s health and education, and have helped to lift over 140, 000 families out of poverty. However, 1.2 million children living in poverty currently do not receive them.

The Fair and Square petition which will be delivered to 10 Downing Street early in February already has more than 34, 000 signatures. You can add your name at

Monday, 4 February 2013

Catholic Welfare Agency Celebrates 200 Years

The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) celebrates the bi-centenary of the birth of its founder Bl Frederic Ozanam in 2013 and is still very much alive and active.

On 23rd April 1833, Frederic Ozanam's 20th birthday, the first meeting took place at 18, rue du Petit-Bourbon, (today 38, rue St. Sulpice) in the offices of the newspaper "La Tribune Catholique", of which Emmanuel Bailly was Chief Editor.

Bailly had gathered around him six students of the Sorbonne University, Paris, who were between the ages of 19 and 23. This small group, united by a sound friendship, became the "Conference of Charity", and placed itself less than a year later, under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, whose spirit and example inspired them. Thus The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was born.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam
Its first President was Emmanuel Bailly, but its most symbolic figure was unquestionably Frederic Ozanam. Bailly realised that it was one thing to debate religion in history circles within the safe and privileged surroundings of the Sorbonne, and quite another to go out into the slums of Paris to serve the poor; it was providential that he, as President, saw fit to send his young friends to Sister Rosalie Rendu, herself a Vincentian Daughter of Charity, who lived and worked in the destitute neighbourhood of the rue Mouffetard, Paris. She grasped immediately the vocation of these enthusiastic and generous young people. She led them to the poor and taught them how to serve those in need with love and respect and in the most authentic tradition of St. Vincent de Paul. The tradition of visiting on a " person to person contact basis" became the first young members' trademark, and so it remains today.

It is difficult not to marvel at the amazing growth of the Society, which is truly international, now having a presence in about 150 countries in the world. From just a few members in 1833, it had grown to 76,500 members in 1883 and by 1913 had nearly doubled its membership to 134,000. In 2013, 200 years since it began, there are over 700,000 member volunteers in the world.

A major Pilgrimage, starting at Lyons, where Frederic lived as a young person, is due to take place in April 2013 and will end in Paris, the traditional headquarters of the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul. On 6th July there will be an SVP National Meeting at Birmingham Cathedral Hall and the next day, 7th July, SVP members will have the opportunity to attend the Walsingham National Pilgrimage.

Please think about becoming a member in this momentous year, by contacting your parish SVP group. If you cannot become a member, why not become a Friend of the SVP? Go to the SVP website for more information.

Thank you to Peter Wells from the SVP for this story.

A Last Farewell to Arundel

Mr Pat Hudson gives his famous tour of Arundel Cathedral to Year 5
Year 5 from English Martyrs School Worthing report on their trip to Arundel:
Although this was a great occasion it was also rather sad too, for all the current and past year 5 pupils at English Martyrs Primary in Worthing. This is because Arundel Youth Hostel has finally closed. The year 5’s have been staying in the youth hostel on residentials for over 15 years and are absolutely devastated at this sad news. The next year 5’s will struggle to find a place just as idyllic as the youth hostel.

Beth aged 9 says “I am so glad I stayed at the youth hostel, It was amazing .” William from year 4 says “I wish I could go to Arundel youth hostel. It’s not fair!’

John Joe aged 9 says “ It’s such a shame that next year’s year 5’s can’t go there. I just hope they find a place just as great.”

During their residential stay, they had a busy schedule of activities. They visited Arundel Castle, the WWT Arundel Wetland Centre and Arundel Cathedral. But this was only possible because it was in walking distance from the youth hostel (no coasts for expensive coaches) Mr Hudson kindly gave us a tour; he’s been doing this for Yr5 English Martyrs for the last 10yrs.

The weather was extremely wet, which meant that our walk along the Arun River was a bit-of-a-challenge. It was soooooooo slippery and muddy (not to mention the cowpats too). Our boots were caked in mud, which was a bit of a problem when we were visiting special places in Arundel. In fact we needed to take our boots off before we could enter the Cathedral. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

New Social Network Aimed at Catholics Launched

Continuing the social media theme from last few days below is a YouTube video about a new Catholic social media initiative. Why not give it a whirl!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Social Media and the New Evangelisation

Pope tweets via an iPad
Benedict XVI's message for the 47th World Communications Day was presented on 24 January in the Press Office of the Holy See. The Day, which will take place this year on Sunday, 12 May, has the theme of "Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelisation". Participating in the presentation were Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of that same dicastery.

"The message of this World Communications Day," said Archbishop Celli, "presents a positive assessment, though not a naive one for that matter, of social media. They are considered an opportunity for dialogue and debate and capable of strengthening the bonds of unity among people and effectively promoting the harmony of the human family. However, this positive character requires that one's actions be conducted with concern for privacy, with responsibility and dedication to the truth, and with authenticity, given that it has to do not only with information and knowledge but, essentially, with communicating a part of our very selves."

"The social dynamic of the social media, it is appropriate to point out, lies within the even richer and more profound dynamic of the human heart's existential search. There is an interweaving of questions and answers that gives meaning to the human person's path. In this context, the Pope touches upon a delicate aspect of the matter when he speaks of the ocean of excessive information that overwhelms 'the gentle voice of reason'."

"The theme of the Day speaks of new spaces for evangelisation: evangelisation that announces the Word, that proclaims Jesus Christ. In this regard we must remember what Benedict XVI wrote in his message for the World Communications Day in 2011, when he emphasized that it was not only an explicit expression of the Faith, but essentially, an effective witness 'in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically'."

Following Archbishop Celli's address, Msgr. Tighe explained that "the Pope takes for granted the importance of the digital environment as a reality in the lives of many people. It is not some sort of parallel or merely virtual world but an existential environment where people live and move. It is a ‘continent’ where the Church must be present and where believers, if they are to be authentic in their presence, will seek to share with others the deepest source of their joy and hope, Jesus Christ. The forum created by the social networks allows us to share the truth that the Lord has passed to His Church, to listen to others, to learn about their cares and concerns, to understand who they are and for what they are searching."

Likewise, the Holy Father "identifies some of the challenges that we must address if our presence is to be effective. We must become more fluent in the language of the social networks; a language that is born of the convergence of text, image and sound, a language that is characterized by brevity and that seeks to engage hearts and minds as well as the intellect. In this regard, the Pope reminds us to draw on our Christian heritage which is rich in signs, symbols and artistic expression. We need to remember a basic truth of communications: our witness – our actions and our patterns of behaviour – is often more eloquent than our words and proclamations in expressing who we are and what we believe. In the digital arena, the Pope suggests that our willingness to engage patiently and respectfully with the questions and doubts of those we encounter in the networks can be a powerful expression of our care and concern for them. Notwithstanding the challenges, we should always be hopeful."