To be blessed on one count is good enough. To regard yourself blessed three times over is quite overwhelming. However, this is how I am feeling as we start a new year.
Blessing Nº1 came when I was appointed as Regional Director of the Columbans in Britain, following the retirement from the post of my illustrious predecessor Fr. Peter Hughes. I have spent nearly all my 25 years of priesthood abroad, mainly in Peru, so this is a God-given opportunity to repay my own people for their generosity to the missions.
Blessing Nº2 is that I am able to minister in the Church during the pontifi cate of Pope Francis, a truly outstanding leader and prophet. It appears to me that his emphasis on topics such as ecclesiastical reform, social justice, inter-religious dialogue and environmental protection simply echo the policies followed by the Columbans for decades. Thus, while he has been termed a ‘Jesuit pope’ for his congregation, and a ‘Franciscan pope’ for his adopted name and lifestyle, I think he could also truly be called a ‘Columban pope’.
Blessing Nº3 comes in the form of Francis’s historic call to hold a worldwide synod and a universal consultation process over the next year or two, aimed at creating a more synodal (or participatory) Church. The preparatory document repeats the message of Vatican II that the Church is not merely a hierarchical institution but rather the entire People of God, journeying through history under the guidance of the Spirit.
The same document reminds us that Church authorities are required to teach but also to listen and to act on what they hear, in the same way that Our Lord did. The example of Jesus and the Canaanite woman is cited, whereby her famous riposte, “Even the puppy dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table” (Mt. 15:27), convinced Jesus that His mission was to the gentiles as well as to the Jews.
Now, we have been here before. Clifford Longley in an article in The Tablet (13/11/21) recalls how in 1980 the Church in England and Wales held a National Pastoral Congress, “a synod in all but name”, which proposed some fundamental reforms in the Universal Church, but whose recommendations were rejected by the Vatican. (“A door had been slammed on our fingers,” remarked Cardinal Hume.) Given the present administration in Rome, it is highly unlikely that the same would happen this time. And that might turn out to be the greatest Blessing of all.
On behalf of all Columban Missionaries I wish to express my appreciation and thanks to you our readers for your continued support of the Far East Magazine and the work of our missionaries. May 2022 bring you and your families many blessings. Happy New Year!