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Public lecture delivered by Rt Rev John Arnold, Bishop of Salford

Listen to the 2nd Canon John Redford Memorial Lecture

'Pope Francis: A New Challenge for Everyone’

by Rt Rev John Arnold, Bishop of Salford

Bishop John Arnold

Wednesday evening, 30 November, saw the occasion of the second John Redford memorial lecture with guest speaker John Arnold, Bishop of Salford. His talk title was Pope Francis: a Challenge for Everyone.

The annual lectures are a tribute to the memory of Fr John Redford who died in 2013. He taught for over 20 years, during which time he encouraged and supported countless students on the Institute’s theology degree programmes which he played a key role in developing.

Bishop Arnold’s lecture drew on the impact in his own life that he experienced from a close reading of Mark’s Gospel some years ago, and he reflected on some of the passages in the Gospel where the disciples of Jesus are shown up as slow to understand and fail live up to their calling. We too see similar shortcomings in our own lives, but we can find reassurance that Jesus remains utterly faithful to us, as he did to his disciples. Pope Francis’ message to the Church has consistently been that we know we are not yet saints – his image of the Church as a “field hospital” after a battle makes the point that it is the place where the bruised and battered can find refuge and healing.

One of the challenges Pope Francis lays down is to ask if we are prepared to ‘walk with those who are walking away from the Church’, rather than just associate with those of a like mind. Like Jesus accompanying the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Church needs to journey with people until they are ready to turn back to God. In his three major documents, Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si and Amoris Laetitia and in calling the Year of Mercy which has just ended, the Holy Father constantly reminds us that despite the constant disappointments, God is merciful and we therefore keep going, keep trying. God is merciful to us and we can then be merciful to others. The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps us understand and overcome our human weakness. God understands it. He wants to be there with us as we face our problems and challenges. He wants to be part of our response.

Bishop John concluded his lecture by inviting us to share one of his own favourite prayers, brief but very potent: ‘Stay with us Lord on our journey'.

To listen to the lecture, click the audio link below:

With acknowledgements to Sue Conway for the photograph

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