The May issue of Franciscan Magazine is now available. This edition is focused on the links between faith and sport, exploring how games and activities can be a great way of reaching out to people who might otherwise not have any connection with the Church or the Christian faith.
This issue also has a wonderful feature on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of SSF in the Solomon Islands, plus a report of the Centenary celebrations at Hilfield.
We also have the usual round-up of news from our houses, plus extensive book reviews.
Micael Christoffer, David and Tobias are in Sweden for a couple of weeks, meeting with various groups to celebrate the links between SSF and the Church of Sweden.
Here they are at Finnåkers kursgård, a retreat centre in the diocese of Västerås, pictured with Bishop Mikael Mogren and representatives from the diocese.
Destinations have included the delightful town of Arboga, where a special Mass was held in a church first established by Franciscans in the 13th Century.
The brothers then travelled north to the town of Rättvik, where an SSF presence was first established by Father Hugh SSF in the 1960s (pictured).
Now they are in the diocese of Skara, meeting local church and community groups for a number of days. Their visit will conclude with several days at Klaradals kloster, a Franciscan convent near Gothenburg. They will be meeting local members of the Third Order and prayerfully reflecting on the new connections that have been made.
The Society of Saint Francis has provided practical support for displaced people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom for many years now. This has included the offer of shelter, food, friendship, plus advice and support during the sometimes lengthy legal processes that can be involved.
The current political discourse around the subject of asylum seekers is becoming an ever-increasing source of dismay for many. We were heartened by the words of Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, during his Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral. Like him, we are deeply concerned by the ethics of sending asylum seekers overseas. We very much hope the UK government will reassess and withdraw this proposal.
Brother Patrick has been busy with a series of interfaith events in Leeds during the past couple of days. After church on Sunday morning he met with Sheikh Omar Abdullah Kiswani from Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. In the afternoon he participated in a panel discussion alongside Rev Heston Groenewald and representatives from the Jewish, Muslim and Pagan faiths. The panel spoke with Jewish councillors from across Yorkshire, Humber and Tees regions about how local authorities can work with faith communities to support refugees and asylum seekers.
On Monday morning he met with a group of diocesan interns and visited a local mosque to meet Imam Qari Asim MBE for an introduction to Islam. Discussion focused on and the differences and similarities between the two faiths, plus a short explanation of the spectacularly decorated dome! This was followed by a return to All Hallows church for a wonderful meal at the Rainbow Junktion community café.
Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop-Protector of SSF’s European Province, has co-signed a letter with other Church leaders in London, calling on the UK government to improve its efforts to provide protection and hospitality to refugees escaping the terrible situation in Ukraine.
The text of the letter and full list of signatories:
We London Church Leaders met today at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family to pray with Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski and his people and to share our concerns at the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War now unfolding in Europe. We are encouraged by the government’s family sponsorship programme and welcome the intention to establish a pathway to humanitarian sponsorship.
As the number of Ukrainian citizens seeking shelter outside the borders of Ukraine is estimated to reach close to two million, we cannot but emphasise the urgency to act swiftly and without delay.
As the children and grandchildren of those who experienced the horror of war seven decades ago, it is our moral obligation to provide protection and hospitality to those who are undergoing the same horrors today, unthinkable as that may seem in the 21st century.
Just as so many British children were sent to the countryside far from harm’s way during the bombing of London, so today tens of thousands are hoping to find refuge far from Russia’s relentless, unconscionable, and indiscriminate attacks on homes, hospitals and schools throughout their homeland. Surely, we feel compassion today for Ukrainian mothers with young children, the elderly and those with disabilities, who have undertaken dangerous and arduous travel, and look to the United Kingdom with hope and are now reaching out to us in Ukraine’s greatest hour of need.
We would ask that sponsorship not be limited to those with family members in the UK, but that those sponsorship criteria be expanded to include all Ukrainian refugees on humanitarian grounds, allowing them to enter the UK as quickly as possible.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Co-Chair London Church Leaders
Those attending the meeting and sharing in this letter:
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
Archbishop Nikitas, Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark
Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of London
Rev Phil Barnard, Team Leader London Baptist Association
Rev Dr Jongikaya Zihle, Methodist Conference
Revd George Watt, Moderator URC Thames North
Lt Colonel David Shakespeare, Salvation Army
Les Isaac OBE, President of the Ascension Trust
Andy Frost, Moderator of Free Churches Group Jesus International
Bishop Lynne Cullens, Bishop of Barking
Rev Msgr Kevin Hale, Vicar General Diocese of Brentwood
Ven Elwin Crockett, Archdeacon of West Ham
The Ven Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London
The brothers are holding their Candlemas chapter at Freeland this weekend. Please keep them in your prayers as they make important decisions for the year ahead. Please also keep Benedict SSF in your prayers as he approaches the end of his second term as Minister Provincial. The new Minister will be elected in the summer.
The Community of Saint Francis is holding its Provincial Chapter at Freeland in Oxfordshire. Please keep the sisters in your prayers as they make important decisions for the forthcoming year. Pray particularly for Sue as she takes on her new role as Minister General, and Beverley as she becomes the new Minister Provincial in Europe.