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INTERVIEW: All Pope Francis Says, Does, Opens Doors Once Shut, Says Christian Leader in Rome

Methodist Reverend Dr. Tim Macquiban Speaks on How Holy Father’s Warmth Witnesses God’s Love for All

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All Pope Francis says and does is opening doors and witnessing to God’s love reaching out to all.
In an interview with ZENIT last week in Rome, a leader of the Eternal City’s Methodists, Reverend Tim Macquibin, stressed this as he reflected on why praying for Christian unity is critical and how the Holy Father is advancing ecumenical relations.
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes today, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Methodist pastor also reflects on his hopes for enhanced relations between Catholics and Methodists, reflects on what we have in common, and speaks for a need for not just spiritual ecumenism, but an ‘ecumenism of action.’
Specifically, the Reverend shares on how Methodists and Catholics can share in their common quest for holiness of life.
Dr. Macquiban has been a minister in the British Methodist Church since 1987, having been an archivist in local government before that.  He is a graduate of the University of Cambridge. He served in two local circuits in Britain in smaller and larger churches for nine years, in Yorkshire and Cambridge, and has taught in a theological college and in higher education for 18 years.
The Minister, who has a long engagement in pastoral, academic and ecumenical work, with his wife, Angela, has supported World Church partnerships and world development, with visits to Jamaica, Singapore and Malaysia. He also has taught in the United States in various Methodist universities and lectured in Australia.
The Methodist Church in Rome is located near Castel Sant’Angelo.
ZENIT: This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Why is praying for Christian unity important?
Reverend Macquiban:. After 50 years of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church we pray because prayer changes things and when we pray together our attitudes, centred on the recognition of our common baptism and incorporation into the One Body inpels us to learn to love and respect each other whatever our differences.
ZENIT:  How is Pope Francis advancing ecumenical relations?
Reverend Macquiban: All that Pope Francis says and does, particularly now in this Year of Mercy, opens doors once shut and the wind of change blows through. His warmth for those who are other, whether Christian or not, is evidence of God’s love reaching out to all.
ZENIT: What are your hopes for enhanced relations between Catholicism and Methodists? And between Catholics and all Christians?
Reverend Macquiban: This openness, warmth and enthusiasm for the Gospel is something that Methodists and Catholics can share in their common quest for holiness of life, in «faith working by love» as Wesley put it.
ZENIT: During last Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Francis said all Christians have a common mission to transmit God’s mercy to others, especially the poor and the abandoned. How do you believe all Christians can and should collaborate in this regard?
Reverend Dr. Tim Macquiban: See my sermons [one published below] – [There’s] not a lot of difference between us. Last night I was with the Sant’Egidio community out at Ostia. Their common task to reach out to the poor was quite evident to me. I preached about an «ecumenism of action,» which takes us further than the spiritual ecumenism, which we have enjoyed together.
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Dr. Macquiban provided ZENIT with the text of his sermon, entitled ‘Blessed Are the Merciful,’ relating to Pope Francis and the Jubilee Year. It is published below:
‘Blessed are the merciful’
It is surely significant that when Pope Francis announced last April that he would open the Holy Door at the beginning of a Jubilee Year he did so to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church obviously feels a great need to keep this event alive as we have experienced in the various commemorations. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world. And that is a task which unites us as Christians.
So we other Christians can support you in prayer and action in our common quest to display the compassion of Christ and the mercy of God in his Body, which is Christ, who longs for unity in his Church.  We who are separated brothers and sisters need to be shown mercy and cooperation by Catholics.  And we show mercy by seeking forgiveness for past wrongs and divisions which have damaged the Body of Christ. Collaboration among Christians is crucial in various areas of service to humanity if the world is to believe.  What a great opportunity this Year of Mercy provides in being able to work side-by-side together to minister to those whom society has forgotten.

We must also not to forget to show mercy to those whose religious views differ from ours. That inter religious dialogue is as crucial as the ecumenical imperative.   Prayer in common «should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name ‘spiritual ecumenism’.»
But what does this mean in practice? I want to share just three points.
Firstly, It means  tearing down walls.  The Holy Year began on the day we remembered 50 years since the closing of the Second Vatican Council.  I love the Pope`s comments on the purpose of the council, and the challenges they present to us today in all our congregations:

With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. 
This is direct challenge to us all to look at the walls we have built up around ourselves. In what ways is our particular parish, even the world as Wesley said was his parish, like a fortress? What walls need to be torn down during this Jubilee year to bring us closer to the people we are called to serve? Are we effectively preaching the Gospel in a way that is accessible to people of our time? Is our church a living sign of God’s love in our community and neighbourhood? 

Secondly,  it means reaching out to ALL.  The message is very clear that this year is for believers and non believers. The Holy Father desires that the balm of mercy reaches EVERYONE.  Just as centuries ago John Wesley came to spread scriptural holiness and God`s message of love for all to the England of the 18th century. Through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, we are being invited to embrace the pain of the world. God wants us to put aside our indifference and become a messy Church where all our welcomed, where wounds are healed, the weak are carried and people are reconciled to God. He also makes a special plea for hardened criminals and evil-doers to repent of their ways and return to the Lord during this time. 
Catholics and Methodists share this emphasis on acts of mercy. For Wesley, works of mercy are a crucial dimension in the Christian life, as shown through his writings, sermons and, actions. Wesley was oriented toward a social lifestyle from the very beginning of his life. His upbringing and his early days at Oxford with the “Holy Club” orientated him thus.  Wesley pursued the area of a ministry in  pursuit of social justice throughout his life, never deserting the cause. He not only regularly wrote and preached about the necessity of “works of mercy,” but he exemplified social responsibility through his actions. As Wesley grew older and could no longer actually perform physical work and deeds, he continued to preach diligently on the importance of social action. The question then becomes, why did Wesley hold works of mercy to be so vital to the Christian life? It was by virtue of their fundamental role in the process of sanctification, of growth in holiness. Wesley held works of mercy to be a necessary part of the “imitation of Christ,” and an essential but often overlooked part of spiritual formation.
This is probably one of the biggest challenges we face. It challenges our thoughts on who should and shouldn’t be in Church. Are we inclusive and ready and open to receiving such people? Are we ready to receive the unchurched, the hurting, the broken and the lost? Are we ready to step out of our comfort zones and leave our securities behind, so that we can go out and welcome all into our congregations? 
Thirdly, it means learning from Jesus.  Pope Francis gives many beautiful examples of mercy made manifest through the life, words and actions of Jesus for “everything in Him speaks of mercy”. Everything “He says and does teaches mercy”. There is much to reflect and pray over here, but with it comes an invitation to spend time during this year mediating and contemplating the word of God. If we want to be merciful, then we must commit ourselves to listen to His Word and learn from Him. We are also reminded that mercy is not just the work of the Father, it is also the criterion for ascertaining who his children are, who his disciples are. If we are truly disciples of our Lord, then mercy is a fundamental part of our calling and mission. It is what we will be judged on just as we read in the story of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, another crucial text for Wesley in his preaching.
Do we give God’s word priority in our community life and daily lives? Are we challenged by scripture? Are our hearts and witness formed by his word or by the world around us? Can we as Catholics and Protestants learn from each other as we read the scripture, as we did in our last Methodist/Roman Catholic British Committee, as an exercise in lectio divina?  In what ways then does mercy become part of our shared personal and collective mission? 
Centuries ago St. Caesarius of Arles wrote these words which resonate with us still as a challenge for today:  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ‘Mercy’ is a beautiful word: more beautiful still is the thing itself. All men wish to receive it, but the worst thing is that not all of them behave in a way that deserves it. Although everyone wishes to be shown mercy only a few wish to show it.   O man, how can you have the effrontery to ask for what you refuse to give to others? You must show mercy in this world if you want to receive mercy in heaven.
And so let us, in our different traditions, seek this year to recover the practice of mercy, in corporal and spiritual matters, together, in the quest for holiness and in bringing all to the salvation that a merciful Father wills for all his children.
On the NET:
Methodist Church in Rome: http://www.methodistchurchrome.com
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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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