GAFCON Threat to the Church of England

African and Asian church leaders threaten to ‘plant’ a bishop in Britain to defy Welby on gay Christians

  • The move comes after concerns Church of England is becoming too liberal 
  • The ‘nuclear option’ by rebel archbishops was decided at a meeting in Africa
  • It would represent a highly provocative intervention into the Church of England 
  • Archbishop Welby softened his stance on homosexuality in February

Conservative Anglican archbishops from Africa and Asia are plotting to create a new ‘missionary’ bishop to lead traditionalists in the UK – after warning that the Church of England is becoming too liberal on homosexuality.

The rebel archbishops are set to give the green light to the controversial plan at a crucial meeting in Africa this week in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Insiders said the move was the ‘nuclear option’ as it would represent a highly provocative intervention into the Church of England by foreign archbishops and a direct challenge to the authority of Archbishop Welby, who is nominal head of Anglicans worldwide.

The move represents a highly provocative challenge for Archbishop Welby, who softened his stance on homosexuality in February  

The move represents a highly provocative challenge for Archbishop Welby, who softened his stance on homosexuality in February

Archbishop Welby alarmed conservatives in February by issuing a letter softening his stance on homosexuality. In the letter, written with his counterpart in York, John Sentamu, he called for a ‘radical new inclusion’ for gays and a ‘21st Century understanding’ of sexuality – apparently paving the way for the first formal services to celebrate gay couples.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, who chairs the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) group of conservative archbishops, said the ‘distressing’ letter had ‘downgraded the historic and biblical mind of the Church’.

Even more alarming for GAFCON leaders, however, is that the liberal Scottish Episcopal Church is expected to become the first Anglican body in the UK to approve full-scale gay marriage at its annual synod in June.

At least seven GAFCON archbishops, who represent a vast swathe of the world’s Anglicans, will be at the five-day meeting starting tomorrow in Lagos, together with UK clergy.

Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, (pictured) said the ‘distressing’ move had ‘downgraded the historic and biblical mind of the Church’

Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, (pictured) said the ‘distressing’ move had ‘downgraded the historic and biblical mind of the Church’

Although several options will be discussed, the most dramatic would involve African archbishops consecrating a new bishop who could then be ‘parachuted’ into the UK to minister to traditional parishes.

Church of England leaders will see this as a highly unwelcome parallel Anglican Church set up without the permission of Archbishop Welby.

It is thought the most likely candidate to become the first such bishop is Canon Andrew Lines, who runs the mission organisation Crosslinks in South London and who is already the chair of GAFCON UK.

One source said: ‘I would say there is now a 75 per cent probability of the GAFCON archbishops voting to consecrate a new bishop for the UK. Andy Lines has a lot of credibility internationally.

‘If it did happen, though, there is a serious risk that Archbishop Welby would press the nuclear button. This would be very dangerous territory.’


This situation of this article by Jonathan Petrie in this weekend’s ‘Mail’ – if the story is true – could cause further trouble for the worldwide Anglican Communion:

“Conservative Anglican archbishops from Africa and Asia are plotting to create a new ‘missionary’ bishop to lead traditionalists in the UK – after warning that the Church of England is becoming too liberal on homosexuality. The rebel archbishops are set to give the green light to the controversial plan at a crucial meeting in Africa this week in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.”

The GAFCON Primates (mainly on the African Continent, but with an ally in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney) have been known to reject the growing tendency of the Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, to accommodate an openness towards the inclusion of LGBTI people amongst its clergy membership. 

However, if there is a move afoot by the GAFCON Primates to ordain a special Bishop in Charge for its presence in the U.K., it is likely to meet with a strong response from – not only the Church of England but also the majority of other Anglicans around the world. 

Whatever transpires at the GAFCON Meeting in Lagos, any attempt at piratical activity that would undermine the jurisdiction of the Church of England Bishops on their own ground would by met with the disapproval – not only of the Archbishop of Canterbury but of all of the non-GAFCON Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Post-Resurrection: Unity in Diversity

Task group developing deeper links and wider understanding

Posted on: April 21, 2017 7:28 AM

Photo Credit: ACNS

This article is available in French (en francais), Spanish (en espanol), Portuguese (en portugues) and Swahili (katika Swahili).

[ACNS] The Task Group set up by last year’s Primates’ gathering has been meeting in London this week with the emphasis on understanding diversity within the Anglican Communion – and recognising the many areas of unity.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Richard Clarke – who chaired the meeting – said it has been a positive and fruitful discussion.

“We have been developing a greater understanding between us of the diversity within the Communion,” he said. “But, significantly, we have been seeing the many, many areas of commonality.

“It has not been a theological discussion. Instead, we have been examining what differences mean at a practical level. In particular, we looked at marriage practices and relationships in different parts of the Communion. But we also looked at the spiritual dimensions of the idea of walking together.”

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon – who serves the group as secretary – added that it had been considering how the authority of primates and bishops was practised in different parts of the Communion.

The group was established in January 2016 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Primates. It was given the task of restoring relationships, rebuilding mutual trust and responsibility, healing the legacy of hurt and exploring deeper relationships. The group met for the first time last September.  Seven of the nine-member group met this week. Canon Elizabeth Paver – the former vice chair of the ACC — and Bishop Paul Sarker from Bangladesh were unable to attend on this occasion.

Archbishop Philip Freier – the Primate of Australia – said it was significant that the meeting had been taking place immediately after Easter. He said that was a moment when the Church reflected on the paradox of Jesus’ powerlessness on the cross and his glorious victory.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, continued the reference:

“After that Easter, the disciples walked together on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognise Jesus walking with them – yet they kept walking together. And, of course, in time, they realised exactly who he was.

“We have committed to walking together with each other – talking, listening and seeking to understand each other. I believe we will see the risen Christ walking with us as we deepen our relations with each other.”

Canon Rosemary Mbogo from the Anglican Church of Kenya said: “I feel that this week has built on what we did when we met last autumn. On that occasion, we began to establish working relationships. Now we are developing those relationships and exploring each other’s perspectives.”

The group will provide an interim report for the Primates’ meeting at Canterbury in October. It hopes to meet again in the spring of 2018.


A determination to continue to walk and work together – despite differences between the Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion – has been attested to by this Meeting of the ‘TASK GROUP’ set up by last year’s meeting of Anglican Primates, to look into matters of differences, while yet seeking means of convergence in a post-Resurrection Anglican Communion.

The reference to the confusion of Jesus’ disciples after his death in Jerusalem, being likened to the situation of the Anglican Communion Churches provincial Churches – in the wake of disagreements that have risen on matters of Biblical interpretation in connection with the understanding of human sexuality – would seem to have met with general agreement among the Task Force participants.

Enlightenment was needed by the disciples, as they both individually and collectively encountered the Risen Christ before a general consensus could be reached in the Early Church. So, too, it may take some time before the different provincial Churches of the Anglican Communion can begin to see the vital importance of meeting together to discern the mind of Christ for the furthering of the Gospel openness to the world through our common witness to the power of the Resurrection of Christ amongst us.

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the Unleavened Bread of sincerity and Truth” – EASTER ANTHEM

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Grief and Gratitude – in Death and Resurrection

EASTER DAY  :   Evensong & Benediction  :   SMAA  :   16 APRIL, 2017

In the light of the sudden death of our beloved priest and pastor, Father Andrew Starky, on Easter Eve, we at the Anglican Church of Saint Michael & All Angels, in the City of Christchurch, New Zealand, have managed to keep together: our mourning for our beloved Vicar, our prayers for his beloved wife, Kathryn and their beloved son, Daniel and their extended family, here in Aotearoa and in Canada; and our celebration of the Solemnities of the Easter Season.


This was my sermon on Easter Sunday Evening at Evensong and Benediction

The most important fact of the Holy Week and Easter stories in the Bible must be the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As Saint Paul once said: “If Christ be not raised from the dead, then is our faith vain” We might all just as well go home and forget all about our belief in a God of Love, whose only-begotten Son suffered death on the Cross, and was raised from the dead – who appeared many times to his disciples, and who eventually was raised to the right hand of the Father, before sending the Holy Spirit into the world, to empower His followers to help redeem it.

Let’s just look – first – at this story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which we heard in the Lesson this evening. we know that one of them was called Cleopas, we don’t know the name of the other. They were not of the Twelve Apostles but were still the disciples of Jesus – so that might put them on a par with ourselves – if we had been in Jerusalem at that time. There they were, walking along the road to the village of Emmaus, discussing what had gone on over the past 3 days in Jerusalem when a young man fell into step beside them. They did not recognise him as Jesus – so we know that the resurrection body of Jesus was in some way different from the man they had known and spent time with in the days leading up to his crucifixion.

Interestingly, though, even though Jesus spent time explaining to them about how the prophetic utterances they knew of were actually fulfilled by the crucifixion and rising of the Messiah; they still did not recognise him – until, after they had invited Jesus to share a meal with them, and suddenly, when he broke bread with them at the table,.

It was not until he left them that they were able to put two and two together, and they recognised him as the one who had presided at the Last Supper a few days earlier.  

In most of the post-resurrection appearances, Jesus was not immediately recognisable – even to his most intimate disciples. This says something about the physicality of the resurrection body. St. Paul speaks of it as the fruit of a seed sown in the ground, which then appears with an altogether different look. What the disciples did recognise, however, was the characteristic loving ways in which Jesus had acted towards them while he was with them.

Beginning with his appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the tomb. We are told that she thought he was the gardener. It was only when he spoke to her, in his characteristically loving way, and the tone of his voice when he said her name: “Mary”. There was only one man who had ever spoken to her with that tenderness, and she knew him and wanted to embrace him, but he warned her not to touch him. Was that because his resurrection body at that point was not accessible to human touch? We don’t know, but it is something to think about.

So where does it leave us regarding our faith in the resurrection of our bodies after death? do we actually get reconstituted from the grave? The answer must be “No”. With our modern-day knowledge of physics, though, we do know that the atom can be split and that what is experienced as a physical body today, could assume another, different, reality tomorrow. Could it be that, in paradise, where Jesus spent 3 days with the penitent sinner before his resurrection; our new resurrection bodies are being newly created in the divine image and likeness of God, waiting there for Our Lord’s Second Coming on the final Day of Resurrection, to take us into God’s glorious presence?

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the Feast – Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity & truth! 

What we do know is that, at the coming of Christ, all who belong to him will be raised up with him and taken into the presence of the Father. Saint Paul has much to say about this process in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 15.

During the Good Friday Liturgy at Saint Michaels’s (Father Andrew’s final liturgical function in the parish) when we heard the Singing of the Passion Gospel, participated in the Veneration of The Cross, the Prayers for the World, and in the consumption of the Elements of the Eucharist – conveyed from the Altar of Repose, where they had rested after the Maundy Thursday Mass – Father Andrew recited this  ancient prayer, which I had never heard from his lips before:












There could be no better preparation for the death of a priest of God, within hours of his sudden death

Rest Eternal grant to our dear Father Andrew, Lord. May light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest now in your peace and rise one day with Christ in glory. Amen.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

P.S. The Office of Compline will be held at SMAA (InMemoriam) at 6.30pm               Thursday 2oth

        Solemn Requiem Mass on Friday, 21st April, 2017 at 11.00am

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Easter Message from “Inclusive Church U.K.’

Reflection for Holy Week and Easter from the Chair of Inclusive Church

A recent poll commissioned by the BBC has found that not all Christians believe in the resurrection of Christ and that 21% of people with no religion believe in life after death.  When asked to respond to this I found myself reflecting that part of belief in life after death is something positive about love and hope – that the life-giving relationships we forge become part of our identity.  Relationships are vital to our well-being.  At the heart of Holy Week is relationships.  Jesus and his mother; Jesus and his best friends, Peter, Judas, John, James, Mary; the relationships between the twelve disciples and their wider crowd- Jesus and Pilate – relationships are central to human existence and identity.

In the past few weeks, the Church of England has, again, found herself in the midst of strained relationships.  The General Synod failed to take note of House of Bishops’ report following the two-year Shared Conversations, the Five Guiding Principles developed to ensure ‘mutual flourishing’ have been strained in Sheffield, and over the border, in Wales, a confidential process may have revealed a failure to act in accordance with agreed practice.

Where is the life after death, or resurrection, in these situations? It is not appropriate for any comment about either of these from those who haven’t been involved, but we are all affected by the issues.  These are, at heart, about what it means to be human beings, together trying to serve God.  Many know what it’s like to have their contribution to the mission of God questioned or to have some aspect of their creation or outlook deemed to be not acceptable.  This is far from straightforward and no doubt Inclusive Church supporters will have differing views of what has happened at General Synod, Sheffield or Llandaff. But what we may all share has to do with new life or resurrection.

Holy Week is a continuum beginning with Jesus’ jubilant entry into Jerusalem, through his service of his friends by washing their feet, to his own doubt and agony in the garden of Gethsemane, then arrest, trial and crucifixion and the deafening silence of Holy Saturday when Jesus’ friends thought all was lost. And then, in the darkness, with no witnesses, God brought Jesus to life.  Death and pain had been conquered because Jesus passed through death and into resurrection.

What might resurrection look like in our own situations of dark or confusing times? It is an encouragement to know that it was the same Jesus who was raised from the dead. He was the same person, with the same relationships.  God used who he was.  We can celebrate God’s call on our lives and God’s call to service, even when that is denied by some.  It is encouraging to know that pain and difficulty are able to be redeemed and to be turned to the strengthening of others, it is encouraging to note that the resurrection happened in the dark, when it seemed as if all was lost.  And so we are encouraged to offer all we are in the service of Christ knowing that it may not be acceptable to some, but that it is always acceptable to God.

The Archbishops have called for a way forward which is a ‘radical new Christian inclusion in the Church’ and Inclusive Church is ready to play our part.  Our books and study resources continue to be a source of strength to individuals and groups, our Partnership Day contributed to consideration of vocations from among those who might ordinarily be overlooked and we are supporting our partner organisations in their activism and lobbying.

But what we are the keenest to do is to support each of you in your own mission and work for the kingdom.  What you do is truly valued as is your courage and determination to be yourselves- in celebration of all which God has made.  This is resurrection indeed, when the people of God refuse to be dismayed, when the silence of Holy Saturday can be endured because Easter Day is a promise.  May you know God’s blessing as you experience new life and are part of new life for others.

Dianna Gwilliams. Chair Inclusive Church


‘Inclusive Church’ is a voluntary association of Anglican Churches in various parts of the world that have taken on board the need for our Church to become open to ALL people – especially, in this instance – of women and LGBTI people who are part and parcel of the life, work and mission of the Church, the Body of Christ. 

Naturally, perhaps – as the U.K. was at the heart of the Anglican Communion and the scene of the refusal of the hierarchy to accept the episcopal election of a well-qualified priest and theologian (Fr. Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St.Albans) to head the Church of England Diocese of Reading, as Suffragan to the Diocese of Oxford – this message contains specific references to the situation of discrimination in the Church of England. 

Dianna Gwilliams, Chair of Inclusive Church in the Church of England, in her Holy Week and Easter Reflection here, sets out the sort of background that was part of the genesis of  the organisation which she now heads, and which provides extensive support to those in the Church of England (and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion) who are involved in the mission to encourage Anglicans to understand the inclusive nature of the Gospel.

It is this particular insight that has informed Dianna’s overview of the fruits of the Death and Resurrection of Christ – not just for the self-imagined ‘pure and holy’ but for all of us.

“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” – Maundy Thursday antiphon

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Sheffield’s new Bishop pledges Unity in the Diocese

Sheffield’s next bishop vows to restore unity following row over women priests

The Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox, who will be the new Bishop of Sheffield

The Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox, who will be the new Bishop of Sheffield

Sheffield’s next bishop is confident he can restore the ‘spirit of unity’ to a church divided by the row over women priests.

The Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox was today (Friday, April 7) revealed as the Church of England’s replacement for the Rt Rev Philip North, who turned the role down last month amid controversy over his opposition to female priests.

Sheffield's next bishop Dr Pete Wilcox is a big Newcastle United fan and joked he could be 'very unpopular' with Sheffield Wednesday fans come Saturday evening

Sheffield’s next bishop Dr Pete Wilcox is a big Newcastle United fan and joked he could be ‘very unpopular’ with Sheffield Wednesday fans come Saturday evening

The announcement was made at St Swithun’s Church in Manor, whose team rector the Rev Julie Upton was one of the first women to be ordained as a priest in Britain.Parishioners there had been among the most outspoken opponents of Philip North’s appointment, but they welcomed the new appointment.

Dr Wilcox said: “I will be ordaining with great joy and delight both women and men as priests in the diocese but I will also be hugely supportive of Bishop Glyn (who opposes the ordination of women priests) and respect the traditional Catholic position.”

The 55-year-old father-of-two, who is currently Dean of Liverpool Cathedral, was among those considered for the Bishop of Sheffield role last year and said he was ‘crestfallen’ to learn he had lost out to Mr North.

He told how the position had continued to ‘beckon to me’, as he felt it was a perfect fit for his skills and experience, and claimed he felt ‘fine’ about being second choice.

Dr Wilcox paid tribute to Mr North, whom he described as a man of ‘huge integrity’, and praised his ‘courageous’ decision to turn down the role ‘for the sake of the unity of the church’.

He said the events leading up to his appointment ‘don’t reflect particularly well on any of us’, but praised the Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Revd Peter Burrows and the people of the diocese for their work to ‘heal the wounds exposed by Bishop Philip’s nomination’.

“Of course there’s work to do but one of the things people keep telling me is how good the spirit of unity was across the diocese just six months ago, which gives me confidence it won’t be long before we rediscover that spirit,” he said.

“The impression I’m picking up is that there’s a great will to recover that sense of reconciliation and it might not be very long before that process is complete.”

Dr Wilcox began his career in the clergy in Teesside and had served as a priest in Walsall and canon chancellor at Lichfield Cathedral before being appointed Dean of Liverpool Cathedral.

He is married to the novelist Catherine Fox, who has written books on feminism and been outspoken in her support of women priests.

He is a keen supporter of Newcastle United, who play at Hillsborough this weekend, and he joked ‘I might be very unpopular with Wednesday fans by Saturday evening’.

Dr Wilcox said one of his priorities in the new role would be spreading the gospel to young people, as he said familiarity with Jesus’ teachings among under-30s was ‘as thin as it’s been in this country for 500 years’.

Another key priority, he said, would be to support the area’s most deprived communities like that of Manor as he seeks to confront social and economic inequalities within the region.

He is due to spend the rest of his first day in the diocese attending a coffee morning at Rotherham Minster, a Lent course at Doncaster Minster and then Evensong at Sheffield Cathedral at 5.45pm.

Dr Wilcox is due to be consecrated as Bishop of Sheffield at York Minster this summer and to start his new role fully this autumn.

The position has been vacant since the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft left to become Bishop of Oxford last June.


This new choice of the Church of England’s CNC for the next Bishop of Sheffield would certainly seem to be more popularly acceptable to the diocese of Sheffield than the previous choice; +Philip North, (Suffragan) Bishop of Burnley and member of the notorious Society of SS Hilda & Wilfrid which – oddly, when one considers the influence of Abbess Hilda in the English Church of her day – denies the validity of women priests.

Doctor Wilcox, despite his strong Evangelical provenance, as well as affirming the ministry of women priests, is also prepared to accept and support the ministry of another Suffragan Bishop in his own new diocese, who is also a member of the SSHW – but not responsible for taking part in the ordination of women clergy in the diocese.

This appointment speaks of a breadth of tolerance in the Church of England that, however, does not yet appear to accept the episcopal ministry of a celibate, same-sex partnered Cathedral Dean – Jeffrey John, of Saint Albans Cathedral. Maybe that too – in time – will change?

In the meantime; an article is being circulated in the press that the wife of the new Bishop, the novelist, Catherine Fox, is the author of ‘cassock rippers’ that could cause some small embarrassment to his new diocese. See here:

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Message of Hope for the A.C. – from HongKong

“Vitality and growth across the Communion”

"Vitality and growth across the Communion"

Posted By Archbishop Paul Kwong

05 April 2017 2:44GMT – ACNS

It is almost exactly a year since the Anglican Consultative Council met for ACC-16 in Lusaka, Zambia. So much has been happening across our Communion since then. Let me tell you about just a few things to give you a taste of how active and lively our Communion has been in the last few months.

On the personal level, I preached at a Dedication Service of a new church in Guangzhou, China, in January. The church, seating 3,000 people, was one of the new and big churches built in China in recent years.

In February, during the visit of the Presiding Bishop of TEC to Hong Kong, several Primates of neighbouring provinces in this region including Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, came and spent a day together to worship, share and discuss the matters of concern.

Among those areas that the Primates agreed upon was a commitment to walk together and serve closely together to make our Communion more relevant to the world in which they are called to serve. The Primates also suggested some topics for discussion at the forthcoming Primates’ meeting in the autumn.

Hong Kong is to receive some distinguished visitors from the Communion next month. Jeroham Melendez – a member of the ACC Standing Committee — will visit with his wife for few days and the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Richard Clarke, will be here to meet clergy and lay leaders of the Church. And David White, the newly-appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Anglican Communion Office, is coming to lunch with me. He is responsible for managing the ACO and keeping the members of ACC informed of its ministries.

Looking further ahead, the first Standing Committee meeting of ACC will take place in September in London. But before that I will continue to have regular telephone calls with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General, not only stay in touch but to update, discuss and share about the situation and development of our Communion.

On the wider level of the Communion, the Anglican Communion Pilgrimage to The Holy Land is to take in June. The aim of which is to bring people of respective provinces closer for prayers, worship and reflections on the mission of the Communion.

And, in July, the Communion will give birth to a new Province, the Church of Sudan. It will become our 39th province. This is a very exciting and encouraging event as it demonstrates the vitality and growth of the Communion in mission.

May I wish you all a very blessed Holy Week and a Joyous Easter.

Archbishop Paul Kwong is the chair of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui


What a different message from that emerging from the GAFCON Primates!

This is a message of hope for the future of the Anglican Communion – issuing from a Global South Primate (Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council) who, evidently, does not align himself with the restrictive policies of other Global South Provinces of the Communion, that want to separate themselves out from the rest of us on the grounds of their own Biblical purity and opposition to the inclusion of a wider catchment area of the Churches’ Mission to include intrinsically LGBTI people who love the Lord.

Thank God for the Bishop of HongKong’s openness to a breadth of mission and ministry to all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or any other socially-constructed barrier that would exclude them from worshipping the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Passiontide Blessings

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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R.C. Liturgy – Pope Francis v. Cardinal Sarah

Pope tells liturgy chief what is and isn’t the norm at Mass

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Pope Francis has expressly told the Vatican’s liturgy chief that the extraordinary form of the Mass should not be the norm.

Francis met with Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, on July 10.

This followed comments by the cardinal at a liturgy conference in London last week.

Cardinal Sarah invited priests to start celebrating the Mass “ad orientem”, towards the liturgical east, from the first Sunday of Advent.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, said that when the Pope visited Cardinal Sarah’s dicastery, Francis expressly told the Guinea cardinal that the “ordinary” form of celebrating the Mass is the one promulgated in the missal by Pope Paul VI.

Francis also said that the “extraordinary” form, while accepted under the means expressed by Benedict XVI in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, shouldn’t become the norm.

At the meeting, it was also decided that a statement should be issued clarifying the cardinal’s remarks.

Fr Lombardi said some of Cardinal Sarah’s expressions had been misinterpreted by the press as a signal that changes in liturgical norms were imminent.

The spokesman also quoted paragraph 299 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal about the placement of altars.

This states that Mass celebrated facing the people is “desirable wherever possible”.

Fr Lombardi said the GIRM remains “fully in force”.

“Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, in order to adequately express an attitude of respect and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery,” Fr Lombardi added.

But the spokesman rejected the vocabulary of a “reform of the reform” in liturgical practice.

He said that phrase is “at times the source of misunderstandings”.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster wrote to his priests saying that the Mass was not the time for priests to “exercise personal preference or taste”.


Pope Francis, once again in his pontificate, shows his regard for the reforms of Vatica II as bei9ng ‘The Norm’ that he wants restored to the Church’s social and liturigcal life. Here, the latest controversy has arisen where the conservative (African) prelate in charge of the Vatican’s liturgical commission, African  Cardinal Robert Sarah, has expressed his preference for the pre-Vatican II liturgical use, declaring the new liturgical forms to be a source of confusion and schism for the Church. Here are the basic facts:

“Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, said that when the Pope visited Cardinal Sarah’s dicastery, Francis expressly told the Guinea cardinal that the “ordinary” form of celebrating the Mass is the one promulgated in the missal by Pope Paul VI.

Francis also said that the “extraordinary” form, while accepted (under) the means expressed by Benedict XVI in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, shouldn’t become the norm.”

This, again, proves that the Pope does not approve of reactionary resiling from the Vatican II process of bringing the Liturgy of the Church into a modern understanding of its place in the Church community. No matter that the Head of the ‘Congregation for Divine Worship’ – well-known to be a conservative liturgist – proclaims his preference for a return to the ‘old ways of worship (forgetting that modern Roman Catholics have moved on from so of the antiquated ideas about worship), Pope Francis obviously is concerned for those newer Catholics who have never been part of the pre-Vatican milieu, and for whom the old liturgical ways are a forgotten world. Pope Francis in concerned more for the future life of the Church than for its past antiquities


Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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