Monday 5 June 2017

Welsh Requiem

At rest in Abergavenny Priory Church of St Mary

Today, among the ancient splendours of the priory church of Abergavenny, hundreds gathered to pray for the last and only PAB ofWales. The initials stood for Provincial Assistant Bishop; but Dai Thomas used to delight in telling us that 'Pab' was also the Welsh for 'Pope'. He was appointed just as several of us in England were designated PEVs - Provincial Episcopal Visitors. But whereas those posts continue in England, at least in name,  in Wales the bishops refused to appoint a successor to David Thomas.

St Mary's Abergavenny
So today the many Welsh priests and people who gathered to mourn a wonderful Father in God were also mourning the death of something else; the Church in Wales itself. There had been in Wales a remarkable flowering of the Catholic Revival in the Anglican Communion, Today many asked me what they were getting in the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff. Since I live in Salisbury they supposed I must know the Dean who was soon to become their chief pastor. In fact as Dean I only know her by repute - I have only been in Salisbury since January. But I certainly came across her when I served on General Synod. I could not, in all honesty, say much to encourage the Llandaff clergy, for she has been an enthusiastic supporter of all things 'liberal' in the Church of England, from women's ordination (naturally) to the claims of the so-called LGBT community - though I understand those initials are no longer enough; they do not include the whole gamut of those who suppose their sexuality is fluid, to be chosen or discarded according to whim, Anything new seems to commend itself to the Very Revd June.

'John the Baptist' according to the caption on a metre high exhbit currently in Salisbury Cathedral
The idea of this being a requiem for the Church in Wales is not mine; several people independently said this was how they saw today. No more scholar bishops of David's calibre. No more genuine pastors who cared for their clergy. Just diocesan apparatchiks appointed because they went along with the spirit of the age.

One priest said "Ah, but though this is a death perhaps there will be a resurrection?" I could only point him to three former Provincail Bishops who attended today as 'ecumenical visitors'. Keith Newton, John Broadhurst and I were all present to pray at the funeral of a much loved former colleague. David had attended many meetings of PEVs when we were trying to discern how we could save something of the Catholic nature of the Church both in England and in Wales.  All three of us have discerned that the only hope of preserving the best of Anglicanism lies in responding positively to Pope Benedict's generous offer to us in 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'; the opportunity for bringing some of the treasures of Anglicanism, not simply liturgical words, but a syle of worship, and a pastoral spirit learned over the years - in the Church of England and also in the Church in Wales.

Some Welsh clergy I know are worried about whether they would be ordained as Catholic priests; there might be something which could become an obstacle for them? But none of us now in the Ordinariate had any certainty of being 'recycled'. The first essential was that we believed what the Catholic Church believed. We were then received into the Roman Catholic Church. Only then could the process of discernment begin. All I can say is that the process has been unfailingly generous towards us, and that we all are sure we made the right decision, I know, because I have lived in Wales myself at various times and have family living there now that as David Thomas used to say "Things are different in Wales". Indeed they are - but no longer, I fear, for the better. The future looks increasingly bleak for orthodox Christians in the Principality. Yet with an enthusiastic leap of faith the Ordinariate could grow from its small beginnings - there is currently a group which worships in a chapel in Cardiff Cathedral - into something which the English Ordinariate would come to admire and even envy.

John paying tribute to his father.
I have to say I was almost in tears today as David's son John spoke of his father, and led us in singing. That spirit is something the whole church needs; part of the Welsh Patrimony which is at present missing but which will be a gift to the entire Catholic world, For us to be a part of today's celebration was a real privilege, Diolch yn fawr - as always, you were very kind and made us 'ecumencial visitors' feel at home. Do know that in your turn you will be very welcome with us. You are needed. Join us in this great catholic renewal.