'Busloads of parish groups should go to Greenbelt'

Fadi Abou Akleh and Matt Jeziorski of Pax Christi

Fadi Abou Akleh and Matt Jeziorski of Pax Christi

Catholics were among 21,000 participants in the colourful Greenbelt Christian Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend at Cheltenham Racecourse, but more could be supporting it, according to Bruce Kent, the Vice-Chair of Pax Christi UK. “Busloads of parish groups should go to Greenbelt” he said, after speaking last Saturday from one of the main stages and visiting the all-age Christian festival site for the first time.

Kent was a keynote speaker on the Saturday evening on the theme, ‘Christian challenge to Britain’s war culture’. In an event sponsored by the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, he told around 800 listeners that “Christians should be at the forefront of opposing war and nuclear weapons”. Afterwards, he visited the ‘peace zone’ and met a young worker from Pax Christi’s partner the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem, along with Pax Christi’s youth worker Matt Jeziorski. Fadi Abou Akleh deplored the Israeli wall around his home city of Bethlehem which has so reduced the quality of life for Palestinians that many in the Christian community have emigrated. The blockade of Gaza featured around the festival site as people were invited to consider how they would manage if there was only one water tap on the site. Kent said he was very impressed with the range of talks, reflections, worship and music offered at the festival, and how strongly social justice featured.

CAFOD ran a stand encouraging people to fill in a card urging Prime Minister David Cameron to act on global poverty, which was then posted through the letter box of a mock No.10 door to cheering from those gathered. CAFOD will be delivering the cards to Downing Street in the near future. Paul Bodenham, the Catholic Chair of Christian Ecology Link and regular at Greenbelt, encouraged conference goers visiting their stall to become members and to support ‘Creation Time’ in Catholic parishes during September and early October. Information was available about Eco-Congregation and study material for Catholics on Climate Change and the Church’s Social Teaching.

Philip Jakob, Director of Music at St Marie’s Cathedral in Sheffield, ran a workshop ‘New Music for the New Mass’, featuring excerpts from his new composition based on the new text of the Mass. “The changes coming in are not an indication of a return to Latin” he said, “but a more literal translation, with all the scriptural and theological nuances of the original Latin text”. He hoped clergy and congregations would “not get too vexed over it”. A regular attendee at Greenbelt in his role as a member of the ecumenical Iona Community, he helped them lead last Monday’s morning worship on the theme ‘Who is my neighbour’ involving hundreds of festival-goers.

Mass at the Festival was celebrated on Saturday evening by Fr Martin Newell, a Passionist priest from the London Catholic Worker community.

Share this story