The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, recently joined the Pope for an ecumenical service to commemorate the martyrdom of Christians during the 20th century.
The Bishop, asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to represent him, sat at the left hand of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, at the two and a half hour service that was held amongst the ruins of the Coliseum in Rome, scene of the martyrdom of many of the first Christians. The service was part of the Pope's millennium celebrations.
"This is a very significant ecumenical witness to Christ and the power of the Christian faith," said Bishop Michael who played an active part in the service, " and [a witness] to the ecumenical imperative to which everyone needs to be drawn." The bishop described it as a huge privilege to attend the profoundly moving experience in the Coliseum.
"The ecumenism of the martyrs and the witnesses to the faith is the most convincing of all," said the Pope in his address to Christians from around the world who attended the service. More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in the rest of the Church's history. "To the Christians of the 21st century it shows the path to unity."
The Pope said that martyrdom was a "patrimony shared by all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities. It is a heritage that speaks more powerfully than all the causes of division."
"I came away with a sense of huge encouragement and hope," said the Bishop of Winchester, "a sense of having been exposed to these amazing stories of fortitude and courage amid awful cruelty."
The Anglican Diocese of Winchester signed a twinning agreement recently with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Florence. Bishop Michael said he believed barriers would melt away if ecumenical friendships were pursued.
Article from: Winchester Way