Letter for Bramhall, April 2013


Here’s a recent paragraph from his blog about the work of reconciliation:

The journey of transforming conflict is a long and hard one (by the way that is how I understand reconciliation in the church: not agreement, but conflict transformed from being destructive). It is also always a necessary one – and essential if our preaching of the good news of Jesus is to have any credibility. It does not mean compromise – that was clear in what we heard at Coventry – but it does mean allowing the Spirit of God to warm our hearts towards those whom we too easily classify as to be hated.


And speaks to thousands from the window of his apartment on Sundays. I’ve just heard him (in Italian) speaking of a “grandmother”, an elderly lady in Argentina, telling him ‘The Lord forgives everything’:

I asked, ‘How do you know this for sure, madam?’ and she replied, ‘If the Lord hadn’t forgiven all, then the world wouldn’t [still] be here.’ And, I wanted to ask her, ‘Madam, did you study at the Gregorian (the Pontifical Gregorian University, founded in 1551 by St Ignatius Loyola, the oldest Jesuit university in the world)?’ – because that is wisdom, which the Holy Spirit gives – interior wisdom regarding the mercy of God. Don’t forget this: God never tires of forgiving us.

So looking ahead to warm Spring days in April, the heady days of papal and archiepiscopal installations belonging now to “last month’s news”, I am full of hope.

Archbishop Justin isn’t asking that everyone agrees with one another, but rather that conflict be transformed, that people who disagree may yet live reconciled lives. Pope Francis is widely reckoned by others to be a Roman Catholic conservative, unlikely to be favouring the ordination of women, or marriage for priests, let alone gays, anytime soon. Some of us will disagree with him on some if not all of these matters – but we’ll love his warmth, respond to his smile, be delighted by his gracious words to gathered journalists:

I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!

Some of us will disagree on some issues with Archbishop Justin. But we’ll remember how we’ve regularly agreed that the job facing any Archbishop of Canterbury must be “well nigh impossible”. We’ll remember to ‘allow the Spirit of God to warm our hearts towards those whom we too easily classify …’

We’ll remember with thanksgiving that the bishops Francis and Justin have both shown us a more excellent way. Both have shown us that we don’t need to agree on everything in order to be reconciled. Both have signalled their willingness and intention to preach the very heart of the Gospel: forgiveness. Both have honoured the labours of their predecessors, Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan. Both have reached out to people possessed of opinions and traditions quite other than their own.


‘Don’t forget this: God never tires of forgiving.’ So neither should we. Laudate omnes gentes. Praise God all the nations of the earth. It’s Springtime and we’re a Resurrection people. Eucharistically thankful, let ALLELUIA be the song of the New Life. Christ’s real presence is in precisely such forgiving, in precisely such eucharistic thanksgiving, in precisely such resurrection. Christ’s real presence is in conflict transformed.



  1. Sometimes it’s a matter of redefining our situation and ourselves. It is only through Christ that I am enabled with the power to do so. Thank you for always reminding us about God’s transforming power.

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