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Since the early days of the movement towards Christian Unity, our Diocese has witnessed the passing of many ecumenical milestones. These have included significant events too, such as the audience of the Pope with Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. In 1995 the Queen became the first Sovereign since the 16th Century to attend a Catholic liturgy officially, when she accepted the invitation of Cardinal Hume to Solemn Vespers in the Cathedral with Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

01 January 1900

In 1908 Father Paul Wattson SA, the founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement (while still an Anglican) with his friend the Reverend Spencer Jones (an Anglican priest, vicar of Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire) began the Church Unity Octave. Their intention was the reunion of Christendom around the See of Peter – in other words, not a partial ecumenism of one or two denominations, but an ecumenism of the whole of the Church. This devotion received the approval of Pope Pius X the following year, shortly after Fr Wattson and his community had become Roman Catholics. It was extended to the whole Roman Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1916, very much as part of his vision of human unity and peace at the height of the First World War. The Octave ran from January 18th (the old Feast of the Chair of St Peter, marking the moment he first arrived in Rome and assumed responsibility for the Church there) to January 25th (the feast of the Conversion of St Paul) and focussed on reconciliation with the See of Peter. It was the direct forerunner of the modern Week of Universal Prayer.

01 January 1900

It is often assumed that the idea of ecumenism came from the Churches of the Reformation, especially after the famous Edinburgh Mission Conference in 1910 to overcome divisions between denominations in the world mission field. Indeed this led to the foundation of the World Council of Churches in 1949.

But there is another side to this story. At significant points far back into history, it has been Catholics who have vitally prepared and transformed our present vision of the Church’s communion, the desire among Christians for reconciliation and the urgency of overcoming the failure that is our separation.

01 January 1900

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