Westminster: over 2,000 celebrate 40th anniversary of Charismatic Renewal

 More than 2,000 people from across the UK gathered at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR). The morning started at 11.30 with an introduction by CCR's Michelle Moran and some praise and worship led by Eamonn Pugh. We then listened to Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan who gave us a potted history of their journey over the last forty years, with references to the Catholic University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where in the sixties Kevin and Dorothy met, and gained their degrees, and to the Catholic Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where they first heard the Good News, which led, in 1967 to their Baptism in the Spirit. Mass was concelebrated by over thirty clergy, including two bishops and with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor as principal celebrant. The volume of ver two thousand people praising God in the Cathedral was incredibly moving and powerful. The Cardinal gave a wonderful homily with many anecdotes and stories of his own experiences, and we celebrated the Eucharist under both kinds. The skies cleared and the sun shone over our lunch break and the piazza was filled with people getting to know each other - making new friends and reacquainting themselves with long lost ones! After lunch, CCR's Charles Whitehead introduced five friends of Catholic Charismatic Renewal to us, all non-Catholics, and they each told their own story of how they have been involved in CCR's development. The overpowering message from each of our ecumenical speakers was that what unites us in our Christian faith is far greater than the differences which sometimes seem to divide us. David Matthews very humbly told us that it was a great testimony for ecumenism that he, a Presbyterian, who grew up us a boy in the Shankhill Road in Belfast, could today stand before, and be welcomed by two thousand Catholics in Westminster Cathedral. Nicky Gumbel, Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, well known to many of us through the Alpha programme, told us of the development of the Alpha programme and how rewarding it has been working with Catholic Evangelisation Services (CES) and developing and sharing the programme so widely. Following some more praise and worship, we then heard from Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, who many people will know. Fr Raniero is a Franciscan Capuchin who left teaching in 1979 to become a full time preacher of the Gospel, and was then appointed by Pope John Paul II as Preacher to the Papal Household where he still serves. Fr Raniero read the Story of Pentecost from the Gospel with his beautiful and frequent interspersions and interpretations. He talked about the Holy Spirits and the gifts of the Spirit. He talked about the time when the Holy Spirit had descended on the apostles in the Upper Room at that first Pentecost, where they were able to talk in different languages. He also talked about his own experience in learning to love other Christians, referring to a parallel with St Peter, recalling how God had convinced him to accept gentiles in the Church. He had led Peter into the House of Cornelius and made him witness to the same manifestations of the Spirit seen at Pentecost being given also to the gentiles. He had to draw the conclusion: "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" Fr Raniero finished his wonderful talk, by thanking God for allowing us all to be together, and as he walked back to his place in the pews, he stopped momentarily at the steps leading up the sanctuary, and turned to face the altar, the crucifix and the magnificent baldachino and led the congregation is thanking and praising God for today, for our friends from other faiths and for the greater unity we now enjoy and experience as Christians. The day finished with refreshments in Cathedral Hall, where Good News Magazine (CCR's own publication), CaFE (Catholic Faith Exploration) under the umbrella of Catholic Evangelisation Services, and Good News Books were all kept busy. For young people, a separate event was held later in the evening at the nearby Emmanuel Church in Marsham Street, which was attended by several hundred 'under 40s'.

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