I came back to Sheffield for nine days on Wednesday of last week to fulfil a series of essential engagements in the Diocese here.  One part of my attention and prayer has been on what is happening in Rome and I’ve continued to keep up to date with the Synod through the daily bulletins on the Vatican website.

The Synod is mainly meeting in groups through these days and developing a series of propositions which will then be voted on in the plenary Synod before going forward as the basis of a message from the Synod to Pope Benedict XVI.

My public engagements in these eight days are in one way a normal snapshot of the life of a Bishop in the Church of England at the present time.  In another they provide a good worked example of the ways in which the Church of England is engaging with the transmission of the faith in our present context.

I came back to Sheffield with a renewed appreciation of the significance of the Anglican experience in mission in the present moment.  As one person said to me in Rome, we have been working at this question of the secularisation of society and appropriate missional and pastoral responses for a long time and in an increasingly intentional way.  It is not, perhaps, surprising, that ways forward developed in an Anglican and British context would be relevant elsewhere to Churches grappling with similar challenges.  The Roman Catholic Church has already acknowledged the importance of the Alpha Course in evangelisation.  I’ve heard similar comments over the last few years from the Protestant Church in Germany and from other parts of the world about fresh expressions of church.

In my address to the Synod I talked about developing fresh expressions of the church for a new mission context.  In the Church of England we have become used to talking about the mixed economy church: traditional congregations alongside fresh expressions of church within parishes or groups of parishes.  The term mixed economy was originally coined by Archbishop Rowan Williams in his time as Bishop of Monmouth.

So what I have I been doing in this reasonably typical week?  On Wednesday evening I attended and led one of twelve Deanery evenings across the Diocese looking at re-imagining ministry for mission.  This one was in the Laughton Deanery, just south of Rotherham.  I began the evening by asking people what questions they were wrestling with at the moment.  They gave a particularly rich series of answers: how to pass the faith on to children, to young adults, to those beginning the faith.  I felt as though I was in exactly the same conversation as the one I had left behind in Rome.

On Thursday evening, I attended the opening of a new building serving a community project led by Church Army Evangelists which relates to some of the most needy people in the city.  The work is an attempt to serve and listen to and witness in a particular sector of city life through pioneer ministry.  On Saturday morning I was with a local parish for a morning teaching on the beatitudes and the importance of being a Christ-like Church.  On Saturday evening, we were at St. Thomas, Philadelphia for a gathering to celebrate the Forge Youth Ministries, which serve over 800 young people across the city in sports, in ventures of different kinds, in small missional communities, in discipleship and mentoring.  On Sunday morning I was at St. Peter’s Greenhill on the edge of Sheffield where a year ago I instituted a young pioneer minister as Vicar and he brought a team of young adults into a traditional parish.  A year on there has been significant growth both in the 9.30 traditional service and in the new 11.00 am informal worship.  There were many young families and a new ministry with children.  Finally yesterday evening I licensed new honorary canons in the Cathedral at a beautiful service of choral evensong.

As we reflect together on the transmission of faith in this part of the world, we need to begin from the point that we are increasingly a diverse society.  To reach every part of that society we need many different approaches, many different pastoral responses, many different expressions of the church bound together by a common understanding, vision and goals.  A diocese and a parish is increasingly made up of these many different communities and ministries.

But at the heart of them must be the call to go, to listen, to serve, to form community and to bear witness to the gospel in many different places as an ordinary yet extraordinary part of the life of God’s Church.  And the goal for them all must be to become Christ like communities, a sacrament of God’s presence in God’s world.

Today is my last full day in Rome.  I leave first thing in the morning to return to the other beautiful city built on seven hills (Sheffield).  Today is also the last full day of the five minute interventions.  We’ve heard around 160 so far.

There were two significant themes for me this morning and one significant question.

The first was ecumenism and the new evangelisation.  There were significant interventions both yesterday and today from Cardinals here in the Vatican on this theme.  Cardinal Coccopalmerio spoke yesterday in favour of a “renewed relationship between the other Churches and ecclesial communities”.  He said:  “The division between Christians is not entirely innocent in terms of the de-christianisation of the Old Continent”.  If we are seeking a new evangelisation of Europe, unity is vital.  He focussed his remarks on a plea for urgency in the dialogue between the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches especially in Russia and Romania because consumerism and relativism which have become “the subtle poison that pushes them towards a devastating secularisation”.

Today Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity spoke in even stronger terms. He said that division among Christians is a scandal which endangers that most holy of causes, the preaching of the gospel.  He recalled the historic Edinburgh conference of 1910 which was the beginning of the global ecumenical movement: the original roots of that movement are in common concern for mission.  He drew the attention of the Fathers to the unity of the Church found in the martyrs of the 20th Century (see yesterday’s blog).

Enculturation was the second theme which struck me this morning.  Sorry about the long words.  Enculturation is the process by which the gospel needs different languages and forms in different places.  We had several pleas for greater listening to local culture,  a plea for more local decision making about liturgical texts and patterns, a plea for enculturation to be more complete.  These voices came from Asia and Africa predominantly where the members of the church can sometimes still feel caught between two cultures: their own local culture and that of the missionaries who first brought the gospel.  There was a general sense in the Synod that this matter of enculturation is a profoundly challenging part of being a global Church and a single communion.  The direction of the comments was  clearly a plea for greater freedom and local decision making.

And finally, the silence of the West.  One of the abiding privileges of the Synod is attending to voices from all across the world.  Just this morning we heard very movingly from Syria and from Haiti of Christian faith in the midst of catastrophe.  The Synod has heard clearly the voices of Asia and Africa, of South and Central America and the voice of the Middle East , Oceania and Eastern Europe.

The Synod has not heard as clearly, in my view, the voice of the North America and Western Europe on the new evangelisation.  In the initial presentations from each continent, the presentation on Europe was more reflective of the former communist states than western Europe.  There was a single presentation from America which focussed on South and Central America.

There have, to be sure, been some individual interventions from these areas but they haven’t been frequent and nor have they articulated as clearly as some of the others a single position.  If there is a theme uniting them it is a willingness to ask a series of more difficult questions arising from, for example, the abuse scandals, or the situation of the divorced and remarried.  Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, made a very good intervention yesterday on the need for deep listening to the multiple cultures around us and for deep dialogue with them as key to the new evangelisation.  There was a similar contribution this morning from a Swiss bishop.  This is not so far from the question of enculturation above, but the culture we are listening to is pluriform and rapidly evolving, and we ourselves are swimming in it.

There is an irony here because the Synod and the new evangelisation are explicitly attempting to address the questions of faith in the historically Christian countries of Europe and North America.  I may of course not be hearing things correctly.  But it seems to me that there is some more listening still to do to the real questions the Bishops from North America and Europe are bringing.  It is to these questions that the Synod will need to apply its wisdom in the small group stages.

Later this afternoon, the Fraternal Delegates will be invited to speak for four minutes each.  I hope to post what I plan to say later this evening.

The Synod resumed this morning with a series of very fine presentations from many different parts of the world.

Two themes came across very strongly to me today.  The first was the theme of small ecclesial communities or base ecclesial communities.  These feature strongly in the working document for the Synod.  In paragraph 80 we read:

“The younger churches are working to enliven parishes which are oftentimes extensive, animating them internally through a programme called Basic Christian Communities or Small Christian Communities.  Their stated purpose is to foster a Christain life which is better capable of sustaining of the faith of their members and illuminating through their witness various areas of society, particularly large, sprawling cities”

At the turn of the millennium, base ecclesial communities were associated especially with the Roman Catholic Church in South America and with a theology of liberation.  It seems that over the last twelve years, since Pope John Paul II’s call for a renewal of evangelisation, many, many bishop’s conferences have adopted small ecclesial communities as a major programme for parish renewal, for equipping the laity and for mission and the fruits seem very significant.  There no longer seems any specific link with liberation theology.

So we heard a few days ago of these communities rejuvenating parishes in the Philippines and key for the nurture of individuals and families.  They offer more intense experiences of the faith and many encounters with the Lord.  Today we heard from Thailand in a similar way of B.E.C. as “a new way of being church”.  The parish is enabled to become a community of communities.  Every Diocese and every parish is encouraged to have a pastoral committee to promote and develop these small communities. They are seen as essential in equipping people for witness and service.  In Zimbabwe the Church in encouraging small Christian communties in similar ways.  In Ethiopia these small communities have been vital in developing lay ministries and a missionary orientation for the whole church.  I

n India since 2000 there has been extensive renewal and transformation in parishes through the same means:  “People gather to reflect on the word of God, to pray, to serve together, to experience community and to grow in personal encounter with Jesus.  Gifts and charisms of the Spirit are placed in the service of the church.  There is a reflection on life’s experience and an equipping in service to the neighbourhood”.  These small Christian communities call for a new model of leadership from the priest and the integral formation of the laity who are called to serve the kingdom of God.

It is clear from these numerous testimonies that the small ecclesial community movement is coming of age in the Roman Catholic Church and is bearing significant fruit.  The small communities are an integral part of parish life and they are taking on many of the features of the church not in competition with the gathering around the priest for mass but to complement that experience.  They are vital for lay formation, equipping people for discipleship in the world and for mission.  I have not so far heard of any Church in the post Christian West give testimony to such investment in small communities but it may be that the penny will begin to drop during the course of the Synod.  The message really is loud and clear.

The second theme which came across again very powerfully was the sense of suffering and the powerful witness of the martyrs of the 21st Century. This may be actual martyrdom in the sense of dying because you are a Christian and we heard moving testimony from Croatia and Romania.  Or it may be the experience of the Church living through common experiences of great suffering as is the case in Cambodia, in Mali and in Japan following last year’s terrible events and bearing witness in acts of love and compassion.

It is very moving for me to reflect on the experience of Christians across the world in all kinds of places bearing a powerful and costly witness through their suffering in the name of Christ.  The Synod has given me a fresh and deep experience of the worldwide body of Christ.

There were no Synod meetings today (as the programme says, Vacat Congregatio).  We had a pretty solid day yesterday of five minute speeches all the morning and afternoon sessions.  My cup was full, you might say.

However that does leave space in the blog to catch up on some of the other places I have been able to visit while in Rome and around the Synod meetings.  Each one has been very special.  If there is a theme it’s that an essential part of a bishop’s role is connexion: to be a sinew in the body of Christ, helping to connect the different parts.  That applies to the Church in different parts of the world and different denominations.  It also means preserving and deepening our connection to the Christians who went before us.  Let me tell you briefly about some my visits.

It was a huge privilege on Friday to accompany Archbishop Rowan and his party on a journey beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, through the excavated Roman cemetery with graves from the 3rd and 2nd centuries,  to the point directly below the dome and the altar where a grave was found in the early 20th Century which dates from the 1st Century AD and which is believed to be the tomb of St. Peter.  A very special place to pray.

The same day, it was good to visit the English College in Rome and have tea with the assembled seminarians who are mainly from the UK.  They were a lively group of around 50 students and staff and the College is clearly a great place of formation for the priesthood and scholarship.  It was good to be introduced to no less than five graduates of the University of Sheffield and to meet up again with a former Anglican priest from the Diocese of Sheffield.

This morning I visited All Saints Anglican Church for worship – a lively community right in the centre of Rome.  It felt uncannily like (in a good way) being in any parish church in England, especially the notices and celebrating the 99th birthday of a member of the choir.

I travelled on for lunch with the monastic community at San Gregorio Al Celio.  The travel directions included the phrase “turn right at the Colisseum and keep on past the Arch of Constantine” which in my world is quite similar to “the third star on the left and straight on until morning”.  San Gregorio is the church where Pope Gregory prayed with Augustine in 597 as he sent him and a small group of monks to evangelise Great Britain.  Another significant place of prayer.  In more recent times it has been the place in Rome where the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury as the successors of Gregory and Augustine have prayed together.

The Church is the care of the Camaldi Benedictine Community.  The prior, Peter Hughes, is very keen to see the Church become a place of pilgrimage and retreat in Rome for Anglicans and other Christian groups from England.  The hospitality was wonderful and I do commend it.  The community were very interested indeed in the fresh expressions movement.  At one point I found myself explaining Messy Church to this group of monks, priests and professors, with the Prior translating both ways.  They completely understood.

This evening was given over to a visit to the Sant’Egidio community in the Church of St. Bartholemew on the island in the Tiber in the centre of Rome.  Sant’Egedio is a community founded in 1968 and is one of the new ecclesial movements often spoken of at the Synod of Bishops.  It is a community dedicated to prayer and the service of the poor.  It has seen many come to faith including my two hosts this evening.  The community has also inspired some of the new monastic communities in Britain and deservedly so.

St. Bartholemew’s is the community’s own church and is now dedicated to the Christian martyrs of the 20th Century.  There are side chapels around the Church dedicated to the martyrs from different parts of the world (those who suffered under the Nazis, the martyrs of the Pacific including the Melanesian martyrs etc).  A very striking contemporary icon depicting the martyrs of the 20th Century is at the very front of the Church, forming and shaping the identity of the community.  I hope to be able to hang a copy in my chapel when I return to England.

There is much I think that the newer missionary and monastic movements in the UK such as Church Army and The St. Thomas’ Order of Mission may be able to learn from Sant’Egidio and the Camaldi Benedictines and I hope it will be possible to build a stronger connection between the different groups.

So lot’s for me to take in and reflect on, I guess for months to come.  And, in between, I’m trying to decide what to say in my own four minute intervention on Tuesday afternoon!



The core of the Synod of Bishops is summed up in these three words.

It’s not, of course, about the food but about sharing meals together and the conversation and growing connection and friendship.  I’ve been privileged over the last twenty four hours to have dinner with the Ecumenical Patriarch, breakfast with the Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance and lunch today with the Pope.  I don’t expect ever to be able to write that sentence again!

It was very good to sit with His Holiness, Barthelomew, the ecumenical patriarch at a dinner given by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity for the Anglican and orthodox delegations in Rome for the special mass yesterday.  I learned something of the situation of the orthodox church in Istanbul and the new growth in Korea and other parts of the patriarchate.  Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary of the WEA, told me about a great new series of television programmes on the Bible made by the producers of the Apprentice currently in edit and due to be on television around the world in the five weeks before Easter.  Watch out for more news from the EA in Britain.  The Pope gave a lunch for everyone at the Synod today – the first time we have all eaten together and a great time for conversation about how things are going.

Synod begins every day with prayers: chanting psalms together (in Latin); collects; a scripture reading and meditation.  Today the meditation from one of the African bishops was based on Psalm 22.1: My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?  The bishop spoke movingly of a visit he made to a cell for condemned prisoners and the way he was greeted with joyful singing of Christian hymns.  He asked the prisoners why they had all become Christians.  He was told it was because of the faith and joy of those who were already Christians which shone out even in that dark place.

The listening is the hardest of the three parts.  Each Synod Father gives a speech (called an intervention) which is strictly timed to five minutes on some aspect of the new evangelisation.  We listen to 12 speeches an hour in the course of a morning and then again in the afternoon.  There was a round of applause at the end of lunch when the Pope decreed that the Fathers could take most of the afternoon off.

Individually the speeches are mostly very interesting.  But they follow one another in a fairly random order and without reference to the previous speaker – not a method of debate I have encountered before.   It’s like building a great stew of ideas out of which the small groups and the ongoing working group after the Council will produce, I hope, many good things.

This morning, for example, we had contributions from Spain on the renewal of liturgy, reconciliation and preaching; from the Ukraine – and several other places – on the parish as the centre for mission; from the Vatican on preserving priestly identity; from Vietnam on the family as the place of evangelisation; from Cameroon on small Christian communities; from India on the need for a variety of approaches; from Italy on the importance of schools; from Chile on the vital need for the Holy Spirit; from Poland on the true nature of the gospel; from Argentina on the preferential option for the poor; from Honduras on lay ministry; from North America on the reality of dealing with the breakdown of trust following the abuse scandals; from the West Indies on the need for a clearer role and support for catechists.  The bishops know their dioceses and their people.

What am I hearing in the midst of all this listening?  I am certainly hearing people who are speaking of God and especially of Jesus Christ.  I am hearing people who recognise their own need to be evangelised again.  I think I am hearing a renewed emphasis on Christology from which is beginning to flow a clear missiology and sense of renewal.

And out of the eating, prayer and listening, I hope there is a growing love for God’s world and God’s church and God’s Son.

It’s good to share these experiences with different people through this blog.  As I do that could I ask you to say a prayer today and tomorrow for the town of Rotherham in the Diocese of Sheffield which is facing a particularly challenging day of protest tomorrow by the English Defence League and which will be in my thoughts and prayers here.


Fifty years ago on this day in 1962, Pope John XXIII inaugurated the Second Vatican Council – a great assembly of the Roman Catholic Church from all across the world to attempt a great work of re-sourcing Christian theology and identity in the life of the Church in the modern age.

The Council met every October to December for five years (much longer than first intended).  It produced a significant agenda for change in the Roman Catholic Church: a new understanding of the Church; a more positive and generous attitude to the world; liturgy in the mother tongue and not only in Latin; a more coherent embracing of biblical scholarship and the insights of charismatic renewal; an openness to greater collegiality and collaboration and a more positive approach to ecumenical endeavour and to sharing the faith.

Less than twenty years after the end of the Second World War, as society emerged into the modern era, the Catholic Church found a confidence to embrace a vision of a global Church and Communion, a sacrament and sign of God’s love in the world.  For a recent, readable and detailed history see John W. O’Malley, What happened at Vatican 2, Harvard, 201.

This morning in a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the same St. Peter’s Square, the Pope remembered Vatican  II and the many rich blessings which flowed from its meeting.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Patriarch were both present along with many Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops from across the world and thousands of priests and laity filling St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Benedict XVI also inaugurated this morning the Year of Faith to mark the 50 years from the beginning of the Council, a Year which will be kept in every Catholic parish across the world: a year of prayer to deepen the whole faith of the Church and a prayer for a deeper experience of the new evangelisation – the theme of the Synod of Bishops.  Like everything else about this Synod, the call to faith is Christocentric: it is call to focus on Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12.2).

Pope Benedict spoke in his homily of the tension which was present in Vatican II and which is present today:

… we can understand what I myself felt at the time: during the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man.

The Pope pointed the Church back to the actual documents produced by the Council as a source of renewal, theological study and apologetics and on to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago today, as a summary of Catholic doctrine and a tool for teaching the faith.

Will these new ventures make a difference?  As we looked back fifty years this morning, there was a real sense of thanksgiving for the changes effected through Vatican II.  The Catholic Church acknowledges that change in an every changing world is not easy.  Yet change there has certainly been.    There is no doubt that Vatican 2 was one of the most significant Christian gatherings of the 20th Century.  The documents and history deserve to be better read and more widely understood.

What fills me with more hope than anything is the determination which comes through in almost every service, discussion and Synod session I have attended here that the Church must be drawn back to Christ, hear the gospel afresh and so renewed in God’s mission for the coming years.

Archbishop Rowan is in Rome for three days.  Yesterday evening he addressed the Synod of Bishops. He chose as his theme the importance of contemplation as the foundation of evangelism.  The Archbishop’s springboard was the hope engendered by the Second Vatican Council and in particularly the renewal of the Christian understanding of what it means to be human (Christian anthropology).

the Council built on the greatest insights of a theology that had returned to earlier and richer sources – the theology of spiritual geniuses like Henri de Lubac, who reminded us of what it meant for early and mediaeval Christianity to speak of humanity as made in God’s image and of grace as perfecting and transfiguring that image so long overlaid by our habitual ‘inhumanity’.  In such a light, to proclaim the Gospel is to proclaim that it is at last possible to be properly human:  the Catholic and Christian faith is a ‘true humanism’

A key part of being human is therefore to contemplate God’s goodness, grace and love and in that contemplation to forget our pre-occupation with ourselves and be caught up into service of God and the world.

To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly.  It is a deeply revolutionary matter.

The Archbishop drew attention to places of spiritual depth in the contemporary world – such as Taize and Bose – and to the new ecclesial movements and communities which flow from the discipline of the contemplative life.  It is a rich and inspiring address and worth reading and re-reading.  The habit of contemplation is foundational to evangelisation:

The enemy of all proclamation of the Gospel is self-consciousness, and, by definition, we cannot overcome this by being more self-conscious.

It is hard to communicate what a significant mark of respect it was for the Archbishop to be invited to address the Synod for 30 minutes and take questions for a further 30.  This is the first time such an invitation has been given to an Anglican in the 50 years of the Synod’s existence.  All contributions to the Synod by the Roman Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops are limited to just five minutes.  This was both a significant honour and an opportunity.

The address was very well received and matched the theme of the Synod exactly.  The Synod Fathers have returned again and again to the need to begin afresh from the face of Christ, to reflect more deeply on their own faith, to the need for the evangelisers to be evangelised.  The Archbishop spoke from the theologians who themselves resourced the Second Vatican Council to resource their successors in their vital task.

Archbishop Rowan is regarded here will immense respect and affection.  His legacy of a stronger link between Canterbury and Rome is seen as vital for the future.  Ecumenism and Evangelisation continue to walk hand in hand:  to be one so that the world may believe (John 17.24).

The full text of the speech is here: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2645/

Buon giorno e Roma!

People say there is less of the Bishop of Sheffield than there used to be.  It’s about a stone less to be precise (and still going down as of last Saturday).  This is partly due to Ann becoming very fierce on the matter of diets and partly to the Hairy Bikers’ recent television series.

A hazardous time then to be in Rome.  So far I’ve managed to resist the bread, the pasta and the pizza (well, almost).  However I have discovered gelati – Italian ice cream.  It’s very warm here at the moment (sorry about that!).  I have to walk through Rome four times a day in a cassock (more on that another day).  There are gelateria on every corner including one under the window of the room where I am staying.  Coconut is my favourite flavour so far but there are many still to try…..

The Synod had its first session in groups this morning.  The groups are divided according to language and I am in one of the English speaking groups but with a real spread of nationalities.  There is more of a dialogue and for deeper sharing than is possible in the plenary.

The last twenty-four hours have been a chance for me to think about the dogs which are not barking yet: the words or concepts which would feature on a discussion of this subject in the Church of England and which haven’t yet been a part of the conversation here.

There are several, as you might imagine.  Some of them I don’t miss.  But the most striking absentee so far is the idea of discipleship and of making disciples.  The concept doesn’t feature, as far as I have discovered, in the Instrumentum Laboris, the preliminary document for the Synod.  The focus is largely there on apologetics, the initial proclamation of the gospel and on catechesis (all associated with the inital passing on of faith).

But my reflection back to the Synod through the group this morning was that the conversation about Evangelisation must be joined to a conversation about discipleship: the fruits of a mature faith which is able to endure and to flourish in the midst of a secular society and culture.  The Church also needs to give careful thought to a vision of Christian discipleship and flourishing – to define the ends as another member of the group ventured so that we can then develop the means.  There have been a number of very positive references so far to small Christian communities from different places in the world which are of course immensely important as places for the forming and sustaining of disciples.

The thought connected for me with the presentation Ann Morisey gave to our Diocesan Development Day on Saturday which focussed on Methodism as a discipleship movement working for “transformation on an industrial scale”.

One of the fruits of coming away from your own situation is that you see some things more clearly.  One of the insights I will be taking back to Sheffield is that any conversation about sharing the faith needs to connected to a vision for growing disciples: Christians who will not melt in the heat of the day but endure and be sustained an grow stronger in their witness.


This morning the Synod began to listen to the contributions of the Synod Fathers.  Each speaks for five minutes only on any aspect of the topic or agenda and each is allowed only one contribution during the main plenary sessions.

The contribution which spoke most powerfully to me this morning began with a question which the Bishop speaking had been asked by a young person: are the youth lost or has the Church lost us?  The Bishop went on to make an appeal for the Church to cultivate three qualities above all others which will create the conditions for the new evangelisation.

The Church must learn humility and learn humility from Jesus Christ who came not to serve but to be served.  We must become a humble church not pre-occupied with itself.

Second, the Church must learn respect for every human person as Christ was a respecter of persons.

Third the Church must discover again the power of silence: that there are no easy solutions in the face of the great suffering in the world.

There were many other contributions but this is the one which I will reflect on most from today in the coming days.  It speaks of a Church which is learning to be Christ-like again: a church of the beatitudes.

As I tune into the Synod I am beginning to hear two different kinds of contributions from the Synod Fathers.  There are contributions which argue that to go forward the Church must return to fundamentals and do them better (enliven the liturgy; preach the word better; deepen observance of the sacrament of reconciliation).  And there are contributions which argue that to go forward the Church must listen more deeply to the culture, understand it better and be prepared to communicate the gospel in new ways.

Just occasionally there is the glimpse of a contribution which suggests that both are essential and it will be interesting to see which of these voices predominates as we move through the different contributions.

But humility, respect and silence are the themes of the day for me.

It was very good to make my first visit to the Anglican Centre in Rome today and preach at the Tuesday Eucharist there.  Excellent also to see Ken Howcroft again (now Methodist minister in Rome) and to learn that there is a fresh expression of church attached to All Saints Anglican Church here led by a newly ordained deacon.

The Synod heard contributions from five different continents today.  Each speaker had 10 minutes to paint a picture of the need for the new evangelisation and what was already happening.

My listening was inevitably subjective.  Some of the presentations were in English and some I heard through simultaneous translation so may have missed part of what was intended – but here goes.

The picture in Europe is a sober one.  Europe needs to be evangelised.  There are many obstacles to the transmission of faith, rising secularism, a rising number of attacks against Christians and many cases of discrimination (note this is the whole of Europe from East to West).  Nevertheless it was a bleaker picture than I recognise from Britain.

Africa was much more positive.  To distinguish between the old and new evangelisation is very difficult.  The challenge over the last generation has been to be truly African and truly Catholic.  There are spectacular numbers of African bishops, priests, religious and catechists.  The establishing of small Christian communities has been a key development.  Several factors mean that faith must be deepened: the rise of globalisation; challenging elements from African culture and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

The report from America was more about central and south America than North America (curiously there was no separate report).  There has been an emphasis on enabling the laity and on catechesis.

The report from Asia was clear and inspiring.  Asia is a major culture for the world’s future and a young culture.  There are many challenges including secularisation; family ties being eroded; anti life movements; a growing individualism and a growing number of attacks on religion (though different in different places.  For Asia, religion is primarily discipleship to a person.  The person of Jesus Christ is deeply attractive.  To tell the story of Jesus to Asia is our challenge.

Finally Oceania – the Islands of Humanity – covering one third of the earth’s surface.  The impression of a Church working well together across the whole region yet facing many challenges (including secularisation and globalisation but also serious environmental challenges).  A clear recognition that we must talk about the evangelisers and see them formed if we are to have a new evangelisation.

The session was a masterclass in the challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church (and to some extent all the churches) all across the globe.  There seemed to be a consensus that whilst some regions face particular challenges in the light of their context and history, others were much more shared and general because of the shared global culture which affects every part of the world.  Therefore there is real merit and value in the Church considering the new evangelisation as a global movement.

For this Fraternal Delegate, it was good to be offered a panoramic view of the questions the Church faces.  Each presentation was born out of the pastoral experience of the bishops present from that region.  Again and again the Synod returned to the theme of the need to transmit the faith with faith, hope and joy to the contemporary world.  There is a deep sense of something stirring.