This year’s celebration of the liturgy Sunday of the Word of God (23 January in St Peter’s Basilica included some very special moments, when Pope Francis formally installed lay men and women from various parts of the world in the ministries of Lector and Catechist, using recently prepared rites for this purpose. In most countries, women and men have long served as lectors and catechists and even have been commissioned for those roles. But those now formally installed in the ministries are recognised as having a specific vocation to leadership in their communities and will serve in what the church defines as a “stable” manner. A statement from the Pontifical Council for Evangelisation (PCNE) explains that the “well-established practice in the Church has conﬁrmed that lay ministries, founded on the sacrament of Baptism, can be entrusted to all the faithful who are suitable, whether male or female” The formal revival of these lay Ministries, which can now be conferred by Bishops everywhere, is widely regarded as part of recent moves by the Pope to implement greater lay co-responsibility into the ecclesial forms and structures of the Church.
There is still time to write to our MP Cherilyn Macrory if you are concerned about the terms of this bill which among other things will effectively criminalise asylum seekers who arrive via “illegal” routes. The Government has not yet put in place any legal routes or given any indication of when that might happen or what they might be.
A number of organisations have circulated template letters you can send to your MP, including the Jesuit Refugee Centre. The letter below is based on that version.
“I am writing to you today regarding the Nationality & Borders Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords.
As my MP, I hope that when the Bill returns to the House of Commons, you will support changes to the bill to make it fairer and more compassionate towards those seeking sanctuary in the UK.
As it stands, the bill seems to represent an unashamedly hostile approach to the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, which nonetheless will do little to deter dangerous travel to the UK by those who are already vulnerable and instead put them more at risk.
In particular, I ask that you support amendments which:
End the two-tier system – the differentiated approach towards refugees and asylum seekers, discriminates against asylum seekers who reached the UK via irregular routes. This is cruel and unfair to those who are already vulnerable.
Support the implementation of safe and accessible routes to the UK – these are not currently in place and the government have given no indication as to what they will look like. They need broad acceptance criteria in order to be accessible. Clear targets and deadlines need to be established.
Support family reunion – the UK’s limited options for family reunion for those seeking asylum. This is a fundamentally un-Christian policy (not to say inhumane) and provision should be established for family reunion.
End offshore detention – There is a lot of evidence of how damaging isolated reception centres can be for the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers. Changes should be made to the bill to replace such reception centres and support a community based model.
End criminalization of asylum seekers who come via irregular routes – This is a hostile and uncompassionate way of treating people who have often had no other options to seek safety when fleeing persecution; it goes counter to what are essentially British and Christian values .
I hope that you will choose to support these changes, and will advocate for a fair and compassionate asylum system in the UK.
Truro’s first ‘parish listening’ events in a synodal process triggered by the Pope, were held last week by Zoom (Tuesday) and physically (Wednesday). About two dozen parishioners from both Truro and St Mawes parishes participated in perhaps the first parish forum held in Truro in several years. We await feedback from facilitators Pat McGovern and Jean Anderson, who are tasked with summarising outcomes. All readers are encouraged to attend the remaining 3 weeks! (see Our Lady of the Portal Church bulletin for details)
Some retreatants with Fr Abbot David and Bro Prior Daniel
The annual Truro Men’s Retreat at Buckfast Abbey was finally held last weekend at the start of Advent. Although in its twelfth year, the 2020 Retreat was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and was only able to take place this year for a limited number, thanks to some late organisation and the tolerance of our Guestmaster, Bro Prior Daniel who kindly accommodated us at short notice.
The Truro Men’s Retreats are notable and privileged for the way we mark the ‘hours’ in traditional prayer with the monks, who also share with us their meals and their monastery and access to their private cloistered areas.
Arriving in cold dark and wet and windy conditions, retreatants went straight into Vespers with the monks. It is a tribute to both the spiritual richness of the experience and the warm hospitality of the monks that the unanimous first reaction of retreatants was “it feels like coming home!”
Parishioners have put together £300 to make up Christmas Boxes, each containing Christmas Dinner for a family of four! Grateful thanks to Tony Barber for actually getting and collating the contents, and putting the boxes together. Readers have also left a further 2 full Christmas Boxes with us, in addition to any that people may have sent directly to the Appeal. There is still time to make up a box yourself (see advert) and call us if you want to drop one off or have it collected.
The children in our First Holy Communion group (16 children!) decorated these Advent candles last week.
They used sheets of coloured wax (wax appliqué) to cut out 4 Advent symbols and fix them onto the candle. The children are placing an Advent prayer card in front of the candle and will say the Advent Prayer every day (and at the same time light the candle).
The above photo shows Cornwall Junior Choir with the Methodist Chapel Choir in the background, at this year’s Big Sing
Last Friday, the popular traditional “Truro Big Christmas Sing” was the very first carol service of the year in Truro Cathedral.
Turnout was significantly less than organisers Christian Aid had hoped, with Covid and inclement weather conspiring against it. Nevertheless, all the families enthusiastically joined in the communal carol singing, and Bishop Hugh (Anglican, St Germans) delivered an inspiring homily in which we were asked to reflect on what the message of Christmas means to relationships between rich and poor, between us and our world.
I was reminded today (Dec 4th) why we should read the Gospels many times in our lives – so that their message can strike us fresh and unexpectedly each time.
Today, Jesus gathers the apostles to him and gives them the ability to heal the sick then sends them out into the world to do just that; to travel through the land healing people in his name wherever they went.
It has never struck me quite so forcibly what a huge gift and commission that was. How amazing, how wonderful that must have been for the apostles – how could you not want to find and heal as many sick people as you could, if you had that power? – you’d never want to stop!
Yet this life-changing event is passed over in just a few short sentences. So easy for its impact to pass us by!