The Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham Usher, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia, The Rt Revd Peter Collins, were delighted to receive a message from Pope Francis last week. It was read to the congregation at a special anniversary service in Norwich Cathedral on Sunday 14 May.
In his message, Pope Francis speaks about Mother Julian’s “profound significance” and how her words can bring consolation and strength to “all who face the pressing challenges of war, injustice, ecological disaster or spiritual poverty”. Echoing words used at the Coronation of King Charles III, The Pope expresses his hope that through a greater appreciation of her life Christians will “follow ever more faithfully and joyfully the example of Jesus, the one who came ‘not to be served but to serve’”.
Bishop Graham and Bishop Peter, in an ecumenical gesture of their friendship and partnership in the Gospel, said in a joint statement, “We are very grateful to Pope Francis for his blessing and his generous message about the significance of Mother Julian’s writing, not only for this fine city of Norwich, but in its contemporary relevance for all people. As we mark the 650th anniversary of her Revelations, and enjoy a series of events and pilgrimages based around her Shrine in Norwich, we are delighted that Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Christians of other denominations, will be coming together to pray and be inspired by Julian’s life and witness to God in Jesus.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby said:
“I am delighted to send my greetings to Bishop Graham and the Diocese of Norwich as they celebrate the 650th anniversary of Mother Julian’s revelations. I am sure she never foresaw the extraordinary influence and inspiration she would provide for generations of Christians, and especially for women. I’m glad that her shrine is honoured and maintained today, and pray that it will continue to flourish. I wish all of you well for the celebrations.”
Full text of Papal message:
I was pleased to be informed that over the course of this year, pilgrims from across the world are gathering in the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals of Norwich to mark the 650th anniversary of the “Shewings” of Mother Julian of Norwich, and I send the assurance of my spiritual closeness to those taking part in the various ecumenical celebrations.
The profound significance of this English mystic for the Christian tradition speaks to us from across the centuries and is increasingly being acknowledged and celebrated. Indeed, her maternal influence, humble anonymity, and profound theological insights stand as timely reminders that faith in God’s loving providence and holiness of life expressed in generous service to our brothers and sisters in need, are timeless truths underpinning not only the life of Christian discipleship but the very fabric of a just and fraternal society.
Of particular note is Julian’s generosity in welcoming those who sought spiritual counsel and encouragement. This willingness to sacrifice self-convenience for the sake of others is especially needed in responding to the endemic problems of isolation and loneliness felt by so many in the more materially affluent nations of the world. In this regard, it is my hope that through a greater appreciation of the life of Mother Julian, Christians today will be encouraged to follow ever more faithfully and joyfully the example of Jesus, the one who came “not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28).
How vital, too, for today’s world, is the message of God’s mercy and compassion revealed to Mother Julian. In her Revelations of Divine Love, we learn that she was taught through God’s grace that, despite the presence of evil in our midst, “all manner of thing shall be well” (Chapter 32). In this regard, I pray that all who face the pressing challenges of war, injustice, ecological disaster or spiritual poverty, may be consoled and strengthened by these enduring words of wisdom.
To all those participating in the commemorative events, I willingly impart my Blessing, as a pledge of Almighty God’s tender mercy and compassionate love for all his children.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 8 May 2023