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Sunday, December 11, 2016
Historic ecumenical service at Tower of London
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¬†History was made last night when Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the Anglican Bishop of London, Rt Revd Dr Richard Chartres with the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd Michael James Nazir-Ali, celebrated Evensong at the Chapel Royal of St Peter Ad Vincula in the Tower of London, marking the start of Christian Unity Week. The event was only the second time since the Reformation that a Catholic Cardinal has visited the Chapel. (The first was in 1970 for the commemoration service for St Thomas More). A plaque commemorating St John Fisher was dedicated after the service. Bishop John Fisher was arrested with Thomas More in 1534 for refusing to support Henry VIII's break with Rome. After 14 months imprisonment they were executed on Tower Hill in 1535. Their headless bodies still rest in the Chapel Royal. They were canonised in 1935. The choir of the Chapel Royal, lead by Master of Music Stephen Tilton sang psalms and responses by William Byrd. Fr Malachy Sheehan, parish priest at The English Martyrs Catholic church, Tower Hill, read the Lesson. Bishop Chartres began his address by welcoming 'our Cardinal' to the chapel. He said: "There could not be a better place to celebrate Christian Unity Week - a place that has seen much death - but much hope." King Henry VIII had been a masterpiece of egotism, he said, and John Fisher had shown great courage in standing up to the tyrant, ultimately paying with his life. Speaking of 16th century Europe, he said: "no church emerged without radical change." St John Fisher had been a reformer also, as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, in his preaching, and in his writing about Lutheranism, Bishop Chartres said. "He asks us - 'what are we prepared to die for?" During his address Cardinal Cormac said: " For some, the story of the martyrs of sixteenth century England can still touch a sensitive nerve in ecumenical relations - four and a half centuries after they died. So I think it is appropriate to pay tribute to the generosity of spirit and imagination which lies behind today's service. "The same tribute must apply to those martyred by Thomas More, and Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer." (These last two died under Mary Tudor). Cardinal Cormac said: " Our celebration this evening is rich in symbolism ≠ and I would like to think most powerfully rich in the symbolism of our reconciliation in the truth. "I always say that the road on which we are embarked namely, the road of ecumenism whose end is unity, is one way ≠ there is no exit, only completion. " But we know that the road is yet long, and that we must keep on travelling patiently and in good faith, never letting perfection become the enemy of the good of which we are capable. "Today is an occasion for giving thanks that we have come as far as we have. But it is also an occasion to ask the prayers of St John Fisher and all our Christian martyrs to keep us moving forward. "In the words of another great Christian figure of the 16th century, this time a woman ≠ Mary Ward: 'Do your best and God will help'. Today we pledge to do our best, confident that with God we will bring this work to completion."
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