The inter-faith campaigner Anthony Bailey, OBE, has been honoured by Pope Benedict in recognition of his contribution to charity and inter-religious relations throughout Central and Eastern Europe. He is the only person in the UK to hold this award.
Mr Bailey received the insignia of Knight Grand Cross of the Pontifical Order of Pope St Sylvester (GCSS) in a ceremony in London on Friday, presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio to Serbia, HE Archbishop Eugenio Sbarbaro.
Among the 100 guests attending the ceremony were 22 Ambassadors including those from Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia and Slovenia. Senior clerics from the Roman Catholic, Anglican as well as the Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and Syrian Orthodox churches attended together with representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities and close family and friends.
In his speech, Archbishop Sbarbaro paid tribute to Mr Bailey’s longstanding support for many charitable and inter-faith projects associated with the Holy See in the region. These he said, included securing and donating funding for the repair of churches and other places of worship destroyed by the war in the former Yugoslavia, material and equipment support for several hospitals and children homes, the organisation of several highly successful inter-faith conferences for Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Eastern Europe and Britain, the printing of a series of inter-faith publications in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo in several languages, as well as raising considerable funds for other charitable purposes associated with the Church.
In his acceptance speech Mr Bailey said: “I have lived, studied and worked throughout Central and Eastern Europe for some twenty years since the great political upheavals of 1989 which resulted in the collapse of totalitarianism and the birth of democracy. With such changes came the freedom of conscience and whilst the region can be justifiably proud of the countless examples of inter-religious respect, tolerance and understanding among the followers of all faiths, it has also regretfully witnessed in parts some of the worse examples of inter-religious hatred since the Second World War.
“I am delighted therefore that Pope Benedict has not only recognised my own small contribution but also the work of many of my collaborators of all faiths whom I have had the honour of working with”.
Among the numerous parliamentarians attending were Lord Brennan of Bibury, QC, President of the Catholic Union of Great Britain who pointed out in his speech that the Grand Cross is the highest distinction which the Pope as Head of the Church and as Head of State can bestow on a layman. Mr Bailey he said richly deserved this singular accolade.
Previously in 2003 Mr Bailey received the insignia of the lower rank of Knight Commander (KCSS) of the same Order of Pope St Sylvester by decree of Pope John Paul II in recognition of his interfaith work in Britain and the Arab world.
For further information on the Papal honours please visit www.papalknights.org.uk
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