On Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 May over 6,500 Christian leaders from all around the world, including Catholic Bishops from Nigeria, Canada, US, England, Malaysia, India, Poland and Mexico, travelled to London for the Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall and Hammersmith Apollo.
Among this year’s speakers were Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, Joyce Meyer, Robert Madu and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. Catholic musician Matt Maher joined the worship team and contributed to the seminar on parish renewal.
Opening the conference, Nicky Gumbel introduced the conference’s theme of unity, saying that at a time when the Church is perhaps at its most divided, living out unity has never been more important. Describing the conference as a 'visible sign of our invisible unity', he encouraged those gathered to focus on what brings Christians together, rather than what they disagree on. He proposed that 'unity around Jesus is the key to evangelisation.' At the end of his talk, Nicky invited all the delegates to kneel and ask God for forgiveness for any words, actions or attitudes, which may have wounded the cause of unity in the Body of Christ. There was a moment of silence while thousands of Christians from all denominations kneelt together in prayer.
The following day, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Justin Welby were interviewed together on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Cardinal Nichols said that he and Archbishop Welby have 'an implicit trust in each other' and he thanked Pope Francis for helping people to see the Christian gospel in a new way, and the Catholic Church 'through fresh eyes'. Afterwards Cardinal Nichols and Archbishop Welby prayed together for Christian unity, following which they received a very long and warm standing ovation.
Speaking about the joint interview, Archbishop Martins, Archbishop of Lagos shared that he was 'just hoping that this kind of trust, which is really a milestone in the relationship between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, can be replicated in other countries and in other circumstances.'
Next, Father Raniero Cantalamessa spoke on 'Proclaiming Together the Joy of the Gospel to a Troubled World'. You can download the full text of his address below.
Father Raniero said that we have 'a distorted perception of God, light-years distant from the image Jesus gives us of God the Father in the Gospel. It has deep roots which must be dealt with if we are to embark on a new evangelisation.'
On unity, Father Raniero said:
'What deeply unites all Christians and makes every difference secondary is a renewed faith in and love for the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Not, however, the Jesus of dogma, of theology, of the respective traditions, but the risen Jesus who is alive today in the Spirit. The same Jesus who is present here among us, and rejoices to see his disciples united “in one accord', as they were on the day of Pentecost.
The most concrete steps toward unity, therefore, are not those that are made around a table or in joint declarations (even though these are all important and indispensable); they are the ones made when believers and especially leaders of different denominations, in spite of all their differences, meet together to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus, to share their charisms and recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s the same experience we are having at this Alpha Leadership Conference.
Pope Francis is resolutely 'leading us Catholics in this direction, and we joyfully follow him.'
On Tuesday afternoon around five hundred delegates attended a special Mass at Our Lady of Victories, Kensington. Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Westminster, was the main celebrant and welcomed Bishops and priests from around the world.
Also during the conference delegates gathered together for an ecumenical Taizé-style service of worship and prayer. The service was led by HTB’s chamber choir and other musicians.
Father James Mallon, Brother Luigi Gioia and Matt Maher hosted a seminar on Parish Renewal: How to Develop a Community of Missionary Disciples. The seminar looked at bringing missionary transformation to the culture and values of the Catholic parish. You can listen to the seminar here.
All the talks, interviews and seminars from the conference are available on the Leadership Conference website.
Download Father Raniero Cantalamessa address Proclaiming Together the Joy of the Gospel to a Troubled World.