Catholics and Anglicans will unite in prayer at the very hour that Pope Francis will visit the Christians of Bethlehem on Sunday 25 May between 3pm and 4pm (UK time).
Cardinal Nichols said:
“Many of our Catholic parishes will hold an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at exactly the time when Pope Francis is meeting the Christian communities in Bethlehem itself.
“I do encourage you, please, to use that hour on Sunday 25 May – the hour between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock in prayer – so that we are in absolute solidarity with Pope Francis and with the Christians of Bethlehem as they meet together.”
The Cardinal also spoke of the importance of supporting the Pope’s mission and of “praying for peace” in the Holy Land.
The Pope’s three day visit to the Holy Land begins on Saturday 24 May – the intense programme includes a visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
Pope Francis will encounter the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem – a meeting which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagorus. They will sign a joint declaration and then preside at an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre together with other Christian leaders.
The ecumenical dimension of this visit is central so Anglican churches across England and Wales will also follow the call from Friends of the Holy Land to hold an hour of prayer to coincide with the exact time that Pope Francis is meeting with Christian families in the Holy Land.
About the visit, Chair of the Department for Dialogue and Unity, Archbishop Bernard Longley said:
“The meeting of Pope Francis later this month in the Holy Land with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew marks a very significant step on the road to Christian unity.
“This year sees the 50th anniversary of the two great documents of Vatican II on ecumenism and inter-religious relations ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’ and ‘Nostra Aetate’.
“This meeting will mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Pope Paul VI, soon to be beatified, with Patriarch Athenagoras which paved the way for the Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue with the Byzantine Orthodox Churches. The forthcoming meeting should have a similarly encouraging and inspiring impact on our relations and our dialogue at national and international levels today.
“I hope that the Holy Father and Patriarch Bartholomew will draw attention to the struggling Christian communities of the Holy Land. I am delighted that many of our parishes will pray in solidarity with Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch on the afternoon of Sunday 25th May. I am also grateful for all that the Friends of the Holy Land have been doing to highlight this important visit and ecumenical encounter.”
You can download the official prayer by using the link in the top right-hand corner of this article.