“The Church is a people called by God to be his own. [Vatican II] made an end to ‘them and us’. It brought us to recognise that the lamb of God has sacrificed himself for us all and made us all a line of kings and priests. It showed us that God has no favourites.”
Those were some of the words spoken yesterday by Fr Gerry Reynolds, in a series of special masses at Clonard Monastery celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II.
Reynolds was tasked with explaining the Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ‘Lumen Gentium – Light of the Nations’ and Decree on Ecumenism, ‘Unitatis Redintegratio – Restoration of Unity,’ both promulgated on 21 November 1964.
Reynolds reminded his listeners that “50 years ago we didn’t recognise Protestants as fully belonging to Christ’s community. … We couldn’t pray with them, or regard their baptisms as valid.”
“Divisions among Christians openly contradict the will of Christ. It is a scandal to the world and damages the sacred cause of the gospel.”
Reynolds also said it is important to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the council for its “new vision of the church,” a vision which influenced the development of Clonard’s Reconciliation Mission. This mission has included the work of the Unity Pilgrims and the Clonard-Fitzroy Fellowship.
Indeed, it is doubtful that without Vatican II, priests at Clonard would have been as free to take part in important behind-the-scenes meetings that contributed to the peace process in Northern Ireland, as documented in the film 14 Days, and John Brewer, Gareth Higgins, and Francis Teeney’s book, Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland. Ronald Wells’ books Hope and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and Friendship Towards Peace: The Journey of Ken Newell and Gerry Reynolds add further insights about Clonard’s Reconciliation Mission.
At the end of his homily, Reynolds referenced the gospel reading for the day, Luke 19:41-42: “As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city, he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace. But alas it is hidden from your eyes.’”
He urged listeners to pray for the unity envisioned by those gathered at the Council:
“… so that peace may be realised in the city of Belfast. …
Jesus wept over Jerusalem – does he weep over Belfast? Let us not be the cause of his weeping.”
The celebrations continue for the next three days:
Friday 21 November
Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament – Seven Hours of Silent Prayer – 10.30 am-5.30 pm
Giving thanks for the fruits of the Vatican Council, praying with Pope Francis for the ongoing Synod on the Family, the Unity of Christians and Peace everywhere on earth. Clonard invite people to join at whatever time they can. Tea/coffee will be available in the confraternity room.
Saturday 22 November
Clonard Youth and Young Adult Ministry will hold a ‘Peace Builders Conference’ for young people in memory of Fr Alec Reid on his first anniversary, beginning at 3.00 pm and finishing with a commitment to peacebuilding at the 7.30 pm vigil Mass. The event will include a screening of the film 14 Days.
Sunday 23 November
Clonard Unity Pilgrims invite you to join with them on this special morning as they share in the worship of seven Belfast Protestant congregations. Meet in Clonard at 10.20 am.
For more details contact Clonard reception on 028 9044 5950.