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International Briefing

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  • LAMBETH PALACE: Archbishop of Canterbury to visit Rome
  • AUSTRALIA: Church property destroyed as Cyclone Larry lashes Queensland
  • LAMBETH PALACE: Williams preaches on the 450th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer
  • PHILIPPINES: Bishops issue statement on Presidential Proclamation declaring national emergency
  • U.K.: Church leaders gather for peace in the Middle East


LAMBETH PALACE: Archbishop of Canterbury to visit Rome

[ENS, Source: Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is to visit His Holiness Pope Benedict XVIth in Rome later this year. The visit will mark the fortieth anniversary of the Archbishop Michael Ramsey's meeting with Pope Paul VIth in 1966 and the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome in the same year.

Dr. Williams met the Holy Father's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in the autumn of 2003; he traveled to Rome in April 2005 for the funeral of Pope John Paul II and returned for the Inaugural Mass of his successor. Dr. Williams and Pope Benedict met briefly the following day.

Dr. Williams said: "I am very much looking forward to the visit and especially to meeting Pope Benedict once again.

"Forty years ago today [March 23rd] Archbishop Ramsey met Pope Paul VIth in what was a historic and ground-breaking visit to the Vatican. They exchanged fraternal greetings and gave thanks to God for the 'new atmosphere of fellowship' between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic church. The declaration which they signed the following day expressed their intent to engage in 'a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed'.

"My visit this autumn is an opportunity to continue that rich tradition of visits between Canterbury and Rome, to reflect on the achievements of the last 40 years and on the future of those relations."

As well as the Papal Audience, Dr. Williams will also join in celebrations commemorating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Anglican Centre in Rome, and will hold meetings with officials of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The visit is expected to take place in the autumn; further details from the programme will be announced later in the year.


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AUSTRALIA: Church property destroyed as Cyclone Larry lashes Queensland

[ENS, Source: Sydney Anglicans] As North Queensland in Australia experiences its worst cyclone on record, Anglican offices have been shut down, a church hall has been destroyed and a rectory roof has been ripped off.

The town of Innisfail was most affected by Cyclone Larry, where houses were ripped apart by gusts of almost 300 km/h (186 mph).

The parish of Innisfail's church building and rectory both suffered severe property damage.

"Innisfail is devastated. The bulk of the church hall is gone and the rectory lost most of its roof. Thankfully, clergy and family are safe and well," says the Area Dean of the Northern Region in the Diocese of North Queensland, the Rev. Chris Wright.

Innisfail parishioners have also had some close calls in the midst of the cyclone.

"One lady thought the roof was going and then the wall blew in and her house collapsed like a house of cards. She escaped unscathed," Wright says.

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LAMBETH PALACE: Williams' sermon on the 450th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

[ENS, Source: Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, preached on the 450th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer. The full text of the sermon follows:

From today's epistle: 'The word of God is not bound.'

When it was fashionable to decry Cranmer's liturgical rhetoric as overblown and repetitive, people often held up as typical the echoing sequences of which he and his colleagues were so fond. 'A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction; 'Have mercy upon us, miserable offenders; Spare thou them which confess their faults; Restore thou them that are penitent'; 'succour, help and comfort all that are in danger, necessity and tribulation'; direct, sanctify and govern'; and of course, 'earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust'.  The liturgical puritan may well ask why it is not possible to say something once and for all, instead of circling back over what has been said, re-treading the ground. And in the same vein, many will remember the arguments of those who complained of the Communion Order in the Book of Common Prayer that it never allowed you to move forward from penitence to confidence and thanksgiving: you were constantly being recalled to your sinful state, even after you had been repeatedly assured of God's abundant mercies.

Whether we have quite outgrown this reaction, I'm not sure. But we have at least begun to see that liturgy is not a matter of writing in straight lines. As the late Helen Gardner of this university long ago remarked, liturgy is epic as well as drama; its movement is not inexorably towards a single, all-determining climax, but 
also—precisely—a circling back, a recognition of things not yet said or finished with, a story with all kinds of hidden rhythms pulling in diverse directions. And a liturgical language like Cranmer's hovers over meanings like a bird that never quite nests for good and all—or, to sharpen the image, like a bird of prey that never stoops for a kill.

The word of God is not bound. God speaks, and the world is made; God speaks and the world is remade by the Word Incarnate. And our human speaking struggles to keep up. We need, not human words that will decisively capture what the Word of God has done and is doing, but words that will show us how much time we have to take in fathoming this reality, helping us turn and move and see, from what may be infinitesimally different perspectives, the patterns of light and 
shadow in a world where the Word's light has been made manifest. It is no accident that the Gospel which most unequivocally identifies Jesus as the Word made flesh is the Gospel most characterised by this same circling, hovering, recapitulatory style, as if nothing in human language could ever be a 'last' word. 'The world itself could not contain the books that should be written' says the Fourth Evangelist, resigning himself to finishing a Gospel that is in fact never finishable in human terms.

Full sermon text:


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PHILIPPINES: Bishops issue statement on Presidential Proclamation declaring national emergency

[ENS, Source: Episcopal Church in the Philippines] The following statement was issued by Bishops Danilo Bustamante and Ignacio c. Soliba March 7 in response to political developments in the Philippines:

On February 24, 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency.  The basis of the proclamation was the alleged "conspiracy between elements in the political opposition. . . the extreme left and the extreme right. . . to bring down the duly constituted government. . ."  This was accompanied by General Order No. 5 which authorized the military and the police to take "necessary and appropriate actions and measures to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism". Ironically, the proclamation was declared on the day Filipinos were celebrating the 
anniversary of People Power I of 1986.

The declaration was lifted a week later, but not after the media was warned and one publishing company actually raided by the police; not after some retired and active military and police officers were "invited" as was a party list congressman; not after the arrest order of five other members of congress were effected based on some two-decades old charges; not until scores of people were hurt by forcible dispersals. It was lifted, but only after the people showed that they will not be cowed as they gathered in waves in an equal show of will and determination to preserve the gains of People Power I.

Let it be stated clearly that we are not against duly constituted governments. WE ARE NOT ENEMIES OF THE STATE. Let it be said too, that we are against military coup d'etats. Yet, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines is one among those who envision a government that "will rule with justice. . .will be a place of safety from stormy winds, a stream in the desert and a rock that gives shade from the heat of the sun" (Isaiah 32:1-2). We are one with those who seek the truth about the true motives of the proclamation of 1017 as well as the motivations for Charter Change. We are one with those who seek the truth about the culpability of the President in violating our desire for clean and honest elections. We are one with those who seek the truth about the agricultural fertilizer scandal. We are one with those who seek the truth about corruption in high places in government and the military. 1017 is proof of what we now wish to reiterate: "The current political repression is symptomatic of a government that has become paranoid of its own citizens. It is a dangerous signal and a grim reminder of Martial Law which we do not wish to happen ever again in this country (A Pastoral Letter From the ECP Council of Bishops, 1 July 2005)"

Proclamation 1017 may have sown "fear and trembling" but not for long.  On the contrary it shall quicken our resolve as a people to unite. It should invite the passive to study the issues well, not to cause further hurt and division but to establish "the truth that sets us free". This we must do as responsible citizens and in faithfulness to our Christian calling to speak out loud against authorities and principalities that perpetuate conflict and misery in the name of self-serving survival and under the guise of protecting the state from terrorism.

Fundamental to Christian teaching is good and responsible citizenship. Its essence is manifested in constantly praying for our leaders and loving service to others. At the same time, it is equally expressed in active prophetic witness in a world which does not keep the words of the Son of God. Take heed of the warning of Jesus Christ in John 15:18-25. Yet, we do not lose hope because the Holy Spirit is with us to guide us and bear witness to the Son (26). Jesus' assurance to his disciples is also for us who truly wish to follow Him and do what He commands. Thus, we join our voices with those who boldly declare that there was no sound basis for the declaration of 1017. We view the continuing sway of the military and the police against the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the Constitution and recognized by all free and democratic governments as a blatant display of arrogance by a regime fast losing the people's trust.

In the spirit of the Lenten Season, we bid one and all to reflect on the profundity of Jesus' assurance: "In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b) And we go further back to a man who lived boldly at a time of deep political and social crisis. Micah said: "The Lord told us what is right and what He demands: See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God" (Micah6:8). This season is not only pervaded by an aura of penitence but also the contemplation of the mighty power of Jesus Christ in defeating the forces of evil and banishing away the demonic. May the people of this republic continue to march and rise towards freedom and perfect union with God—the ultimate result for humanity and creation, of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For the ECP Council of Bishops,




Chairman Signed in Quezon City

07 March 2006


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U.K. Church leaders gather for peace in the Middle East

[ENS, Source: Christian Aid] The chapel in Westminster Central Hall, England, was filled last week with church leaders from the UK listening to the hopes and fears of Jerusalem church leaders and promising to pray and act on their behalf.

Led by Bishop Michael Langrish of Exeter, UK church leaders renewed their commitment to a deepening awareness of the situation in the Holy Land and said they would encourage their congregations to work for a just peace.

"This is not a one off, but part of a strategy of awareness in our churches," Langrish said. "I trust that those gathered here will not give up."

The March 16 conference was organized by the Middle East Forum of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) as part of a week of international action for peace in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Church leaders in Jerusalem issued a statement that was sent around the world and churches far and wide gathered to consider their response.

"We ask all Christians to consider the prophetic role of the Church and the power and importance of public witness so that the sufferings, injustices and insecurity of the Occupation which affects Israelis and Palestinians—be they Christians, Muslims or Jews –become an urgent priority for all national governments," the statement read.

In London, Dr. Bishara Awad, principal of Bethlehem Bible College was joined by the Rt. Rev. Kamal Hanna Bathish, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem.

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