N. Ireland hosts unique global Ecumenical Meeting of Bishops and Church Leaders
“a real experience of Christian unity is possible”
33 bishops from 20 different Churches in 17 countries meet in Larne from the today, 21st to the 25th October. For the first time Northern Ireland hosts this encounter which brings bishops together annually in places characterised by collaboration between Christians. Rather than focusing on governance or doctrine, the bishops learn about the local ecumenical journey, share their own experiences of the Gospel and explore the unifying potential of Christ’s words, “Where two or more meet in my name, I am there among them”. (Mt 18:20).
This meeting has been promoted for 38 years by the Focolare Movement1. This year’s theme is: “In a divided world, united in Christ”.
The bishops will have a session in Larne with those engaged in dialogue in Ireland. Churches represented at this include amongst others the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Moravian, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Armenian Churches, and bodies such as the Irish Council of Churches, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and other initiatives.
In Belfast the bishops will meet a spectrum of people from Ireland at three services:
- Tue. 22nd Oct 5:30pm Lutheran Service, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, University St.
- Thurs. 24th Oct 5:30pm Choral Evensong at St. Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral
- Thurs. 24th 6:30pm Ecumenical Prayer Service in St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Donegall Street, based on Jesus’ New Commandment, “Love one another; as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
Michael Mulvey – Catholic Bishop of Corpus Christi, (Texas – U.S.A.), said of last year’s meeting in Sweden:
“The Church is divided… in a world that is divided. Bishops of different Churches coming together and being able to pray together, to sit at meals together, laugh together, listen to music together, and just speak about normal things, about the Church and their faith in Jesus Christ − that should say to people young and old that there is a possibility for change… There is hope on the horizon.”
Trevor Williams – Church of Ireland retired Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe − who attends such meetings regularly, said,
“This meeting is special. There is a wonderful variety of bishops and Church leaders from different Churches, countries and contexts. It is the character of the meeting that makes it special. Instead of having to compose an elegant document on what we have agreed, we are free to listen intently to one another. It is my experience that from this deep sharing, a real experience of Christian Unity is possible. This is truly inspirational. We leave renewed in our commitment to our unity in Christ which transcends our many differences”.
1 The Focolare Movement is active internationally in ecumenical, inter–faith and inter–cultural dialogue aimed at building a more united world in which all people are valued and respected. It is inspired by Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “May they all be one.” (Jn 17:21).