Head of Laity Council visits Oxford

 Cardinal Francis James Stafford, new president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, attended the annual Plater Summer School in Oxford (29th July to 4th August). During the week, the Cardinal met those involved in a variety of initiatives and institutions. It was only the third occasion on which movements such as Charismatic Renewal, Focolare, Faith, Youth 2000, Cursillo, Communion and Liberation, Ascent, Neocatechumenate and Madonna House, had come together in England to share their experiences and try to understand their mission in the Church. The Summer School programme, designed by the Centre for Faith & Culture, also brought these groups face-to-face, often for the first time, with many older and still vigorous forms of lay organization in the Church, from Plater College itself to the Maryvale Institute, the SVP, the Catholic Women's League and the Catholic Missionary Society. More than 130 people crammed into the small residential college for this event, which was also attended on Friday by the Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols. The Cardinal's visit ended in a day at the University's Catholic chaplaincy to celebrate the pontificate of John Paul II. In his keynote address, Cardinal Stafford presented an interpretation of Lumen Gentium and Christefidelis Laici. Difficulties of lay identity were discussed, the Sermon on the Mount was presented as the "ethic of the laity", and the complementarity of the "priesthood" of the laity and that of the ordained was explained. The Cardinal accounted for the specificity of lay identity in terms of an embracing ellipse with two centres: the Church and the World. He saw the new ecclesial movements as signs of hope in the life of the Church, and encouraged the Bishops of England and Wales to welcome them, while fostering their closer integration within the life of diocese and parish. On Saturday the Cardinal spoke of the immense and unexpected success of the World Youth Days, and Dr William Oddie delivered a striking call for the Pope to be known as "John Paul the Great". Other speakers included Fr Rodger Charles SJ (on the Pope's contribution to Catholic social thought), Mary Shivanandan (on his theology of the body), and John Saward (on the Pope as saint-maker extraordinary). Fr Ian Ker had earlier spoken on ecclesial movements, Peter Garrett on bioethics and Charles Wookey on global solidarity.

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