On Saturday, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle gave an address at the Lambeth Conference underway at the University of Kent until August 8.
Speaking at the invitation of the meeting convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Cardinal Tagle offered his own reflections on the theme of the meeting, ‘God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together’, with a talk entitled, “The Church of 1 Peter for the Decade Ahead.”
The Lambeth Conference takes place every ten years and marks a key moment for discussions about the Church, world affairs, and the global mission of the Anglican Communion for the decade ahead. Speakers are invited from around the world. The global meeting has taken place every decade since 1867, and consists of one of the four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion. This year’s meeting marks the 15th Lambeth Conference.
Common spiritual home
Cardinal Tagle began by imagining if the Letter of First Peter were addressed to us, the Church, and world we know today. The Letter encourages Christians to remain faithful in beliefs and conduct, and being of one mind, loving, compassionate and humble, despite the risk of persecution and suffering.
Cardinal Tagle said he dreams of this reality, this home for the Church today, united as a human family and together with creation, encouraging everyone to dream together to allow the Lord to create this home for the Church.
He observed that the Letter of First Peter is addressed to Christians in the diaspora who were made to feel like strangers or exiles.
He asked if we can still feel that reality today as we move towards a future homeland, especially as we can be so set in our ways of being and doing, where as we are called to be a Church that goes forth and reaches out to others, a Church that is a spiritual home with peoples of diverse backgrounds and cultures through its encounters.
Welcoming the strangers in our midst
This calling brings to mind the displaced peoples of today, Cardinal Tagle continued, the forced migrants, refugees, victims of war, human trafficking and forced labour.
They are the new strangers in our midst, often marginalized are scapegoated for today’s problems, he observed. The Letter of First Peter asks all of us, especially as members of the Church, how we are treating this millions of “homeless” people and if we are showing the compassion and hospitality that is part of Christian vocation.
Cardinal Tagle lamented that even with the Church we have allowed ethnic and cultural divisions to ruin our spiritual home, making the dream of a common human family ever more elusive for future generations due to our neglect and succumbing to violence and war.
Populism has also played in role in this reality, he admitted, as it actually shows disregard for people by deepening polarisation in already divided societies, by categorising entire peoples, groups and societies, especially on social media. He stressed that we must not let culture or religion be used for partisan interests that undermine efforts at fostering positive relationships and creating a human family marked by respect and fraternity.
Humility in walking together
The invitation to walk and live together requires humility, Cardinal Tagle pointed out, and our diversity comes from our culture of origin and not only individual freedom and choices.
Therefore, Church pastoral leadership needs to better develop its own “cultural intelligence,” by first reflecting upon our own backgrounds and then by putting ourselves in the shoes of others who express their humanity based on their own cultural backgrounds.
Doing so, he explained, can help us do away with any traces of cultural superiority and prejudice, when uncovered and rightly admitted. We can learn from each other greatly by humbly observing one another and learning to appreciate other experiences and cultures that make us who we are.
Reading the Gospels, we have many accounts of how much Jesus suffered for his openness and compassion for outsiders, strangers, and public sinners, Cardinal Tagle added, leading to Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion.
Our common home
In conclusion, Cardinal Tagle recounted some of his own experiences that remind of the Letter of First Peter, saying they brought to life a dream for the future here in the present.
In one anecdote, he recalled visiting a refugee camp in Greece where he met so many people who risked their lives by fleeing suffering back home. The camp brought together people of every culture, religion, economic, and social background imaginable, but united by their journey from desperation to safety and a brighter future for their children.
He spoke with a town governmental official while there and discovered she was not there in any official capacity, but instead donating her time in the camp. She told him: “My ancestors were refugees too. I have refugee DNA. These refugees are my brothers and sisters.”
That struck him profoundly and marked a teaching moment of how to think and walk humbly with others and allow God through us to build a common home, marked by compassion and fraternity.