A letter from the Primate to his fellow-bishops on the occasion of the election of Pope Benedict XVI

My Dear Fathers and Brothers

A few day ago in Rome, a priest said to me thatThe funeral will have an effect on the conclave.

To stand in Saint Peter’s Square at three in the morning and watch a million young people, candles flickering, hymns and prayers being said aloud, faces intense with purpose, as they waited for a brief moment alongside the body of the late Pope, was to confront the church in a new and awesome way. So many languages, so many cultures and histories, so readily able to gather from the far corners of the earth, such a single-minded sense of purpose and of faith. In a moment, the global dream of Jesus that the Church be gathered “from the nethermost ends of the earth” as He ascended to the Father was realised in our midst. If we felt it so strongly, my priest friend thought, how much more must the Cardinals have felt it. Later, kneeling beside the earthly remains of John Paul, I watched that great procession from within Saint Peter’s, twenty abreast as it swept past him without pause. Now could their grief and tears be seen. Here was a people mourning a shepherd whom they loved, and whom they had known. To be known, that Christ be known through us. To be loved, because the love of Christ is in us. That is how the apostles saw themselves. It is still the test.

And so they have elected a new Pope, decisively and quickly, a pope who already speaks to the world of faith “as one with authority”. He is already a hero of the young who are the most ardent defenders of the faith in our age. His writings on ecumenism – and on the Sacred Liturgy and on so much else – already make him our companion. He is intimate with the worlds of Lutheranism and Anglicanism.

He is very aware of our Traditional Anglican Communion, of our troubles, conflicts and hopes. He knows some of us in person, and has generously corresponded with others of us. His election fills us with hope – with a generous hope for the future of the whole Church, and a very personal hope that we too will find in Pope Benedict a shepherd from whom we will hear the voice of Jesus calling us to follow Him. Let us thank Holy Spirit for this godly choice!

+John Hepworth

Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion