Liverpool hosts major international Church conference

 A major international conference of the Catholic Church is to take place in Liverpool this week. Four Cardinals, seven Archbishops and sixteen Bishops from Africa, Europe and the Vatican are set to descend on the city tomorrow, 19 November, for the five day gathering. It is the SECAM-CCEE joint seminar: SECAM is the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar and CCEE is the Council of European Bishops Conferences. The two groups meet both in Europe and Africa to express communion and solidarity between the Catholics of the two continents.

The meeting is taking place in Liverpool at the invitation of the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool and as part of the Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations. The theme of the meeting is: 'I was a stranger and you made me welcome' (Matthew 25:35), Migration as a new point of evangelisation and solidarity.

The theme is significant given the history of Liverpool as a sea port. Archbishop Kelly says: 'During the recent Synod in Rome every time a Bishop from Africa spoke, we were made aware of the blessings and great challenges facing our sisters and brothers across that continent. Beyond all doubt, to welcome Bishops from Africa to our city will be both a blessing and a challenge to every one of us.'

During their time in Liverpool the Bishops will have opportunities to meet people at a series of public events, as well as to hold their private discussions. The meeting opens on Wednesday 19 November with a celebration of Evening Prayer at 4pm in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria will preach at the service which will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Following Evening Prayer a Press Conference will be held at 5.30pm in the Gibberd Room at the Cathedral to launch the meeting. Those present will include: Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana and Bishop Josef Voss, Auxiliary Bishop of Münster, Germany.

On Thursday 20 November after a public service of Morning Prayer at 7.30am in the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Bishops will hold private meetings at the Liverpool Archdiocesan Centre for Evangelisation; during the morning they will be welcomed to the city by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Steve Rotheram. On Thursday evening at 7pm all are welcome to attend Mass at St Anne's, Overbury Street, Liverpool, when Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor will be the Celebrant. St Anne's has been chosen as an ideal place for those attending the seminar to meet people, many from Africa, who have recently arrived or who are seeking asylum.

On Friday 21 November, again following 7.30am Morning Prayer in the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Bishops will tour both Liverpool's Cathedrals and will attend an early afternoon Civic Reception at Liverpool Town Hall, following which they will have the opportunity to visit the City's International Slavery Museum. People are invited to join the Bishops for Mass at 5pm at the Church of Christ the King on Queens Drive, Liverpool, when Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, will be the Celebrant.

Friday evening and Saturday see the public sessions of the meeting held at the Liverpool Archdiocesan Centre for Evangelisation. On Friday evening there will be a Public Debate at 7.30 pm with the theme: 'Historical forms of slavery and new forms of slavery'. It will be chaired by broadcaster Rob Mcloughlin. On Saturday morning there are presentations and discussions on pastoral care for refugees, migrant workers and students followed by Mass at 12.30 pm in St Clare's church, Arundel Avenue, when Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar, Senegal, will be the Celebrant. At 2.30 pm there are presentations and discussions on the mission of the Church in many different places throughout the world, with the theme 'The Church in a Multi-Cultural Situation'. Anyone wishing to attend the discussions at the Centre for Evangelisation may reserve tickets, which are free of charge, by calling 0151 703 0109 (during office hours) or by email:

Saturday's events conclude with a 5.00 pm celebration of Solemn Evening Prayer at the Metropolitan Cathedral and, later that evening, the Bishops will be joined by many of Merseyside's Church Leaders before attending a concert at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall.

On Sunday 23 November the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King, the Patronal Feast of Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral. The Bishops' meeting will conclude with Solemn Mass in the Cathedral at 11am at which Archbishop Patrick Kelly, who will be celebrating his 70th birthday, will be the Celebrant.

Source: Archdiocese of Liverpool

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