Encouraged by Christmas celebrations we begin this New Year with hope, acknowledging that for many in this country, and in other more troubled lands, there will be plenty of problems to face. Our greatest challenge will be to give even stronger witness to the faith we have, that God will lead us in the ways of peace and justice and will never abandon us.

The sad news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us of the limitations and fragility of life, yet beckons us to celebrate our faith in the life eternal: for in death, life is changed rather than ended. I am told that the Pope Emeritus’ final words were ‘Lord, I love you’- a perfect summary of his profound relationship with the Risen Christ. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

For me, one of the enduring memories of Pope Benedict’s visit to England in 2010 was his meeting with Queen Elizabeth. Two world figures, with the wisdom of decades of service centered on their common faith in and love Jesus Christ, exchanged words of kindly goodness and mutual acceptance. In those moments, centuries of painful and sometimes violent division were perhaps forgiven and forgotten.

With the recent death of Pope Benedict, and the Queen’s last year, the world is a poorer place. We give thanks to God for their witness of selfless service rooted in deep faith.

As we journey through the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us pray that we will not tire of seeking new ways to cooperate and collaborate with those who are separated from us by design of history. And that together we can give authentic witness to the one God and his only Son Jesus Christ.

As Pope Francis reminds us, ‘the root of communion and love is Christ who makes us overcome our prejudices to see in others a brother or sister to be loved always’.

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