Archbishop Nichols welcomes international Alpha conference delegates

 Archbishop Nichols welcomed around thirty visiting archbishops, bishops and their representatives from across the world at a Mass and reception in Westminster recently.

The Episcopal representatives were from Europe, Middle East and Africa and included three archbishops and ten bishops from India, Sri Lanka, France, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and the Caribbean. They were visiting London for the week-long Alpha International Conference hosted at Holy Trinity Brompton in Kensington. The conference attracted over 1250 representatives. Bishop Kieran Conry (Arundel and Brighton, Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis) joined with Anglican Bishops and leaders of other denominations on one of the days for seminars and prayer.

During the conference a Mass was held at Westminster Cathedral on the night of 8 June to welcome the visiting bishops and their representatives.

In his homily, Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said: "The commission given by Christ as he departed from this world is a constant in the life of the Church.  We are called to announce the word of God; it is the nature of the Church to do so… What is clear is that those who seek to proclaim the word of God, the good news of Jesus Christ must first receive it.  Those who seek to build peace must receive the gift of peace themselves so that it fills their lives and hearts.  Those who seek to change lives through the power of the word must constantly have their own lives changed by that word.  In other words, we who seek to be evangelists must first be disciples, and we must have in our heart every morning, the other words of Isaiah, 'that I awaken every day with a disciples ear'…"

Following the Mass there was a reception for around 120 guests in the Throne Room at Archbishop’s House. In his welcoming address, Archbishop Vincent said:  "You are all very welcome indeed and I thank you for gathering here this evening and for sharing so much with me and with other people here in this Diocese of Westminster… I congratulate those who have organised this particular week for Alpha, as well as saluting the work that Alpha does all around the world now in so many different countries. This evening I have heard wonderful testimonies about the work of Alpha in prisons, in poor countries, in many many different circumstances.  It is when the testimonies are exchanged that we grow stronger… I pray that God will guide us all in this journey of deeper and deeper understanding and greater visible unity between our churches."

The Bishops’ Stream at the conference was hosted by the Anglican Bishop of London. A special message of support was broadcast by video from Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household. Another message was sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Alpha course, which began in an Anglican church, is now being used in the Catholic Church in over 60 countries around the world. Last October, the first Latin America Alpha Conference took place in Bogotá, co-hosted by ITEPAL (Catholic Theological Institute for the Latin American Episcopal Council). Present at the event were 30 Archbishops and Bishops from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Alpha is now running in over 600 Catholic parishes in France and training events for Catholic bishops,  priests, and lay people have recently taken place in Italy, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, among other countries.

Kitty Kay-Shuttleworth, Director of Alpha in the Catholic Church, said:  "We are most grateful to Archbishop Vincent for hosting the reception in the Throne Room. It has been a wonderful week as Christians from many different denominations have come
together with a shared love of Christ and vision for evangelisation."

The reception was organised in partnership with the Home Mission Desk of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales which serves as a point of contact for parishes and organisations interested in finding out more about Catholic evangelisation.

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