On June 29 2019, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, Pope Francis gave to the delegation representing the Œcumenical Patriarch, a reliquary containing nine bone fragments of St Peter the Apostle. While the majority of Peter’s relics are under the high altar of St Peter’s Basilica, St Paul VI had taken the fragments to be kept in the private chapel of the papal apartment. Upon consigning the relics to the Orthodox delegation for conveyance to Constantinople, Pope Francis told the archbishops that the idea had occurred to him the previous evening.
South Sudan – the world’s newest country – is barely functioning. It has the lowest literacy rate for women in the world; most people are in poverty and in need of food aid and large areas of the country remain unsafe; while the various factions that make up the armed forces in the country have yet to finally come under a single command structure. Yet as John Tierney, community member and organisational development consultant, flies over the lush green African savannah and into Juba International Airport, he is surprised to find a small flicker of light: the Gospel may one day be preached from an Orthodox church in the capital of South Sudan.
Saint Arsenios of Paros (†1877) prophesied that “the Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when She begins to again venerate Her own Saints”. Over the summer months members of the community have visited holy wells and sites in Shropshire and Mid-Wales. On one pilgrimage we were joined by the Community of the Three Hierarchs and St Cybi, Lampeter.
The simple answer to this question is “To meet God and share in His Life”. But how does this happen? Let us start by asking some fundamental questions. What is the Church here for? What is the distinctive and unique function of the Church, that which the Church does, and which nobody and nothing else can do? What task does the Church perform, which cannot be carried out equally well by a youth group, a musical society, an old people’s home, or an ethnic club? What role does the priest fulfil, which cannot be fulfilled by a social worker, a psychotherapist, or a marriage counselor? What holds the Church together and makes it one?