The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville
Do you remember that great weekend in September? For the first time since the Reformation a Pope made a formal, state visit to this country.
When Pope John Paul II came in the 1980s, he came as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church and his was a Pastoral Visit. Pope Benedict XVI, however, came by invitation of the Queen -
In Matthew’s Gospel -
Mainly because Peter, and then Paul, both went to Rome both were martyred there, and because Jerusalem was destroyed just after the time of Jesus, Rome became the natural centre of Christianity. It became a “Holy City” and together with some areas of France, in the fourth century Rome became the property of the Pope.
The name “Pope” by the way, was first used for any Bishop in the early Church. It simply means “Father” and comes from the idea of the senior male being the head of a Jewish family.
Christian families followed suit and the head of a Christian community was given the same respect, hence Father. That’s very different from the leader of a Jewish Synagogue who is known as a teacher -
Gradually in the Church things changed and for the last 1000 years or so, the word Pope has been the title of the Bishop of Rome. In 1302, in fact, the then Pope -
Back to the place -
Henry VIII broke away from Rome, and yet here was the Pope, for the first time in 500 years, singing Evensong at Westminster Abbey, here was the Pope giving a joint blessing with the Archbishop of Canterbury, here was the Pope visiting the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, here was the Pope beatifying an Englishman -
What we witnessed was both historically and spiritually very significant.
Our two Churches have spoken as one to the nation -
Let us hope and pray that those words will form the foundation for a new relationship between Canterbury and Rome.
Fr Mike Sheffield
Christmas Edition 2010