Practising Christians are now a “minority” in Britain like persecuted Roman Catholics during the Reformation, say two of Britain’s most senior clerics
All practising Christians are now a “minority” in Britain like persecuted Roman Catholics during the Reformation, according to two of Britain’s most senior Anglican and Catholic clerics.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said the churches must set aside centuries of division and recognise they have a “common agenda” in a more secular age.
The two prelates were speaking at a unique event at Hampton Court Palace, which served as the backdrop to the tumultuous events of Henry VIII’s break with Rome.
In a step hailed as hailed as a landmark in reconciliation between Anglicanism the Catholicism, they joined in a service of vespers in the Chapel Royal.
The service, sung mainly in Latin, was the first Roman Catholic act of worship in Henry’s former chapel in more than 450 years.
The service, conceived as part of events to mark the Palace’s 500th anniversary, highlighted the chapel’s musical heritage spanning both Catholic and protestant reigns.
It comes at a time when the legacy of the Reformation is being re-examined as churches across Europe prepare to mark its half millennium.
Earlier this year Pope Francis’s personal preacher, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, was invited to preach at a special service in Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen for the opening of the Church of England’s new General Synod.
He spoke about both Thomas Cranmer and Martin Luther and said Catholics should “celebrate” the anniversary of the birth of Protestantism and “benefit from its achievements”.
Two years ago Cardinal Nichols also joined Bishop Chartres in the Tower of London to pray in the cell where Thomas More, Henry’s Lord Chancellor now revered as a Catholic martyr and saint, was held prisoner before his execution after he refused to acknowledge the king rather than the Pope as Supreme Head of the Church in England.
Speaking as the Hampton Court service got underway, the two prelates discussed how the established Church of England and Catholic Church increasingly work together.
Bishop Chartres said: “I would like to think of this evening as a celebration of how far we’ve come and also a celebration of a common agenda.”
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