JUST AN ORDINARIATE FRIENDSHIP
Fr. Christopher Pearson’s post on my Facebook page brought back some terrific memories of a trip to London in September 2010, a wonderful meal in an Italian restaurant in London and a friendship born that night. I write about this because of his post and also because you’ve heard two of my conversations with Fr. Christopher on “Vatican Insider.” (photo from his Facebook page)
As you will see, there is another important thread as I weave this story: The Personal Ordinariate.
I had gone to London for six days to cover Pope Benedict’s amazing visit to the UK. On Friday, September 17, the second day of his state visit and the day after his triumphant reception in Scotland, he was scheduled to visit St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, where I was credentialed to cover his meeting with 3,000 young people – schoolchildren, students – to celebrate Catholic education.
Twickeham was a bit of a train trip from London and I had to be up at 4 am to get the train and be at the college to go through security, find the media section, etc. It was a terrific morning and experience (I wrote about it extensively on these pages) and I was only able to write about it and download photos after returning to London and going to the Queen Elizabeth II Convention Center, the media center for the papal visit
I finished work shortly after 9 pm and was absolutely starving. I had had only a sandwich and some orange juice for lunch – I don’t even remember having breakfast! All the restaurants and pubs were closed near the center but the personnel told me there should be a few places open about four blocks up Queen Victoria street. That sounded good to me and I knew I had to find a place as I had a phone interview to do for EWTN at 10 pm.
It is fairly rare that I seek an Italian restaurant when I travel but Il Coliseo seemed suitable and there was quite a number of people inside – a good sign as Londoners generally eat earlier than Romans do, thus a restaurant with a crowd at 9:30 seemed ideal. I ordered dinner, got up just before 10 to go outside and do the EWTN phone report and returned to my seat to finish dinner.
Just as I ordered coffee (to try and sat awake as I had now been up for 18 hours), two men came into the restaurant. The first was wearing a Roman collar and carrying a huge Vatican flag and he was accompanied by a friend. They sat down at a table not far from mine. I smiled and decided I would go and ask a priest his thoughts about the papal visit, Pope Benedict, etc. I was still wearing my media credentials but apparently did not need them for, as I approached the table, the man who turned out to be Fr. Pearson, said, “Oh my word, it’s Joan Lewis from EWTN!”
It turned out that Fr. Pearson was the pastor of an Anglican parish, St. Agnes, and he was with what Anglicans call the parish ‘warden’, also named Christopher. They invited me to have my coffee while they had dinner and the next hour or more was filled with some of the most stimulating conversation I’ve ever had about the Church, faith, Catholics and Anglicans, Pope Benedict, the Personal Ordinariate, and so on. Had Father not told me he was Anglican I would not have doubted for a minute that he was Catholic. But not to get ahead of myself.
I had my first interview with him on that trip: We spoke about the Personal Ordinariate, established only the year before by Pope Benedict which is, put simply, a structure created by the Catholic Church for those bishops, priests and people in the Anglican Communion who seek to enter the Catholic Church and be in full communion with the Successor of Peter.
In 2011 when the first Personal Ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, was created, Fr. Christopher joined and became a Catholic priest, as did many other priests and several Anglican bishops, one of whom became the Ordinary of this first ordinariate and is now also a friend of mine, Msgr. Keith Newton. I spent 4 days in London in January 2011, right after Our Lady of Waslingham was established and Msgr. Newton was named as ordinary. I interviewed him and also visited St. Agnes where many of the parishioners had a thousand questions about the Ordinariate. Many, it turned out, would want to join.
My second interview with Fr. Christopher for Vatican Insider was when he was a Catholic priest. He is now the rector of the Ordinariate and Parish Church of the Most Precious Blood in London.
Almost as if to complete the circle, it looks like I will be going, at the end of the month, to Houston, Texas, where yet another good friend, Bishop-elect Steven Lopes, will be ordained as the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter! He will be ordained on February 2 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
I’ll have to find out if Fr. Christopher or Msgr. Newton will be in attendance.
If not, we must plan to meet in London at Il Coliseo!
THERE’S ALSO THIS…..
CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, PREFECT OF THE SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY, announced on Sunday the Holy See is taking steps to “slave-proof” the Vatican supply chain. He was speaking in Rome during a meeting of The Global Foundation, an Australian organization which brings together business and government leaders. “I am pleased to confirm that the Vatican itself will commit to slavery-proofing its own supply chains and I hope that today’s announcement will serve as encouragement for others to follow suit,” Cardinal Pell told the gathering. At the same meeting, the Consumer Goods Forum – a consortium of major companies including Carrefour, Barilla, and Nestle – announced it had passed a resolution to “eradicate” forced labour from their supply chains.
“INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND EXTREMISM: REASONS AND REMEDIES” was the title of the First Arab Thinkers Forum, held in Abu Dhabi January 17 and 18 at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. The only non-Muslim speaker was Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who intervened during the first session during which the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, also gave an address. Fr. Ayuso Guixot structured his discourse around five key points: extremism, the culture of encounter, the key role of religious leaders, the need for sincere dialogue and the importance of prayer. He emphasised that it was not his intention to pursue considerations on the economic, political, social and cultural reasons for extremism, well known to those present, preferring to focus instead on Pope Francis’ recommendations to the international community on how to construct peace which can serve to counter extremism.
A PRECIOUS TREASURE FROM THE ROME CHURCH OF SAN GREGORIO AL CELIO was brought back home on Monday after spending a week on loan to Canterbury Cathedral for a meeting of worldwide Anglican leaders there. The head of a crozier, or pastoral staff, associated with St Gregory the Great, has been on display in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, alongside a rare 6th century book of the Gospels given by Pope Gregory to St Augustine as he set off on his mission to take the Christian faith to England. The manuscript is the oldest surviving Latin illustrated Gospel book and one of the most ancient European books in existence. Appropriately, the relic of St Augustine was returned to Rome at the start of the annual week of prayer for Christian Unity. (sources: VIS, Vatican Radio)