Archbishop Wilson – Papal Letter prompts call for Lenten prayers for Church unity

March 17, 2009 1:56 pm

The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson, today called on all Catholics to offer special prayers for Pope Benedict XVI and for Church unity, as part of their Lenten observances this year. Archbishop Wilson said that Pope Benedict’s recent letter to bishops regarding the Society of St Pius X was a deeply personal and moving account of the pontiff’s deep desire to take all possible steps to work towards Church unity. The Pope’s letter referred to the recent heated discussion which erupted both within and outside the Church, in the wake of Pope Benedict’s decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops who were illicitly consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre. In his letter, the Holy Father spoke of his regret that the gesture of reconciliation had been overshadowed by revelations about the unacceptable position of Bishop Richard Williamson with regard to the Jewish Holocaust. He accepted that more rigorous Internet checking would have alerted the Holy See to Bishop Williamson’s views. “The Holy Father’s letter was a uniquely personal plea for understanding,” Archbishop Wilson said. “It contains both humble acknowledgement of mistakes made, as well as a deeply human insight into the suffering felt by subsequent attacks on him.” Archbishop Wilson said the letter was a stirring call to Church unity from the Successor of Peter, in which the Pope argues that even small gestures of reconciliation can be fruitful in shifting people from their entrenched positions and changing their hearts so that they begin to move back towards life within the Church. “During this Lenten season of purification of heart and of turning back to God, I ask all Catholics to offer special prayers for the Holy Father, so that in this way we can support him in his enormously challenging ministry,” Archbishop Wilson said. “I ask also for prayers for Church unity, that we too, can offer the hand of reconciliation to all our brothers and sisters, who might for one reason or another find themselves outside the Church’s loving embrace, but who have a genuine longing for Christ in their lives. It is in this way that hearts and minds can be changed.” Archbishop Wilson said he had written to Pope Benedict on behalf of the Australian Bishops, assuring him of prayerful solidarity and support, and thanking him for his letter which he was sure would achieve the Pope’s stated desire of contributing “to peace in the Church.”