All posts by 3 churches

The Synod in Rome

Recently Cardinal Nichols wrote a letter about the Synod, from which these are extracts:

Pope Francis wants us to rediscover our life in the Church as a communion of life with God and with one another. He wants us to be a sacrament for the whole world, the outward sign that leads people to the inward grace of faith in Jesus Christ, known and lived within the communion of the Church. We must learn to listen more closely to one another, ready to work out, prayerfully, what we need to do to fulfil this mission – seek to enhance our service of others, acknowledging that every single person is endowed with gifts and abilities for this work.

Over the last two years, there have been various expressions of this Synodal journey, in our parishes, in the Diocese as a whole, and at the level of the Church in every continent. Now all this comes together this October, in a Synod of Bishops in Rome, to assess the journey thus far and to fashion clearly the next steps to be taken. These findings can then be reviewed by us all, before a further Synod of Bishops that takes place in October 2024.

The Pope has chosen a significant number of lay men and women, priests and religious, from each continent, to be members alongside those bishops chosen by Bishops’ Conferences around the world. Their method will be the one the Pope has put before us all: prayerful listening of the heart, careful discernment of all that is put before them, faithfulness to the teaching of the Church, explored and presented with great love, and shaped by praise of the Father, fidelity to the Son, seeking the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This Synod meeting is not an ecclesiastical UN Assembly, nor a Church parliament or convention, nor a referendum on the teaching of the Church. It is to be ‘a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit’, a setting out on a journey ‘with the Lord always coming to meet us’ (Pope Francis, 10 October 2021).

How can we become a listening Church, profoundly open to all, humble and seeking forgiveness.

Can we be a Church of encounter and dialogue which seeks to hold together, often in tension, fidelity to the truth expressed in her teaching and a compassionate love for every person?

How can we be a Church of deep respect for all that is truly human, seeking to bring the gifts and talents of every person into the mission given by Christ?

How can we be a Church which is constantly restless because we are incomplete, yet a sign and instrument of the union of all with God?

The Synod must consider what processes, initiatives, and structures can help us in becoming a truly missionary Church.

We can be part of this historic process in the thoughts and resolutions of our own hearts.

How can we be more attentive to each other, listen with our hearts to the distress and the joy of those around us, make our community more welcoming?

How can we find ways of enabling the talents and abilities of everyone to become part of our outreach, of that invitation to come to know the Lord?

Every moment and every place is, for us, a time and location for mission. May the coming month of October be a time of grace for our Church, both in the great gathering in Rome and in the circles of our lives here at home.

World Youth Day 2023

Well, what can I say? If there is anything to describe World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, it would probably be the most difficult reflection I would have to do, and it is likely that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this!

There are no words to describe it! (Joke set aside!)    The experience was like no other… 

Mark Aziz - World Youth Day 2023

This was my second WYD, with the first one being in Krakow in 2016. Some memories of Krakow came into Lisbon; the kindness of people, the cracking theme song (Há Pressa No Ar), and the explosive atmosphere from all pilgrims.

But this time I went with the Community of St John from Forest Gate, London, as it was nearer to Reading where I live, and some of my friends from Youth 2000 (a youth organisation that I volunteer for) were going with them.

Some of us took the direct journey by flight, and the rest went on coach. I decided to take the latter.

Our journey consisted of going to Paris by Eurostar, staying with the Parisian Community of St John for 1 night, and taking a 24hr coach ride all the way to Lisbon.

Once we arrived, we settled into our accommodation, which was a church and a primary school where we were allocated, laying our sleeping bags on the plain floors of the rooms.

Whenever you go on pilgrimage like this one, there will be an element where we have to leave behind the comforts of our daily lives, and settle to what we already have; a hard floor to sleep on, a simple breakfast, and if you are out of luck, faulty cold showers! But critically, the pilgrimage did impact our sleep; every day was more eventful than the previous, particularly if you took the long way to get to Lisbon.

But let’s put these aside, and focus on the best things ever, shall we?

The Community of St John has multiple branches across the world, and we joined forces with New Zealand, New Jersey USA, Canada, and Taiwan. Every day we took turns to celebrate Mass. We were the first to kick off ours on a basketball ground, where we met the other communities and held small groups talking about the environment and how we can be stewards of God’s Earth.

Then we celebrated Mass, using a Mass setting that one of our friends composed himself.
One of the amazing things about WYD is the numerous amount of languages spoken to express the faith, and that was evident with the other Masses. New Zealand’s bidding prayers were responded in Māori, and Taiwan’s Taizé Service alternated between English and Chinese.

Mark Aziz - World Youth Day 2023

The London group have also been working on a play, and performed it for 1 night only. It was called Petro Kibe: Samurai Pilgrim, which is based upon a figure named Bl Petro Kibe, a Japanese young man, telling the story of his 5000 mile journey from Goa to Jerusalem on foot, and setting sail for Portugal to join the Jesuit priesthood. He then made his journey back home to Japan, only to be persecuted by the authorities and a former priest who renounced his faith, but wouldn’t go down that path nor pull up a fight.

As a thespian pretty much most of my life, I took part in the play, and played Petro’s travel companion, and a priest who was the leader of Jesuit community at Rome.

With God’s Grace, it was a massive success, and all the cast enjoyed it so much!

And now the big part… The Masses with Papé Francisco!

Making our way to these was really something! Floods of other pilgrims from all sides of the streets were making their way, with a good number of human trains to keep everyone together! We took inspiration and formed our own train! Find a spot on the field was also tricky, the space needed to be big enough and in the shade.The first service with the Pope was the Stations of the Cross, featuring a performance by amazing dancers, a full orchestra and choir, and poured so many emotions from a lot of people.

But the main event was at a much bigger park to the east, and involved a big walk there, venturing through the steep hills of Lisbon, to reach our new home on the final few days of WYD.

It started with an evening vigil with a lot more performances, from the choir, dancers, and a dazzling drone display. Late at midnight, and small parties were going on, and if there is one nation that can pull off one, it is Mexico! Dozens of people came to dance around the guitarists and drummers, and singing their hearts out of how much enjoyment they have received.
The pilgrimage mercifully and happily came to an end with one final Mass with the Pope, who announced the next WYD in Seoul in 2027.

The theme of this pilgrimage was “Mary arose and went with haste.”
It just goes to show how much energy comes from unity of 1.5 million young Catholics, how much we can learn from them, from cultures, achievements, struggles, and their trade of energy. I see this trade as something that makes the WYD experience very worthwhile, and speaking of trades, there is tradition every WYD to trade souvenirs from each other’s countries.

At the end of the final Mass, a pilgrim from Panama approached me to trade her Panama T shirt with my Wales shirt, and after a bit of deliberation we made the trade!

Mark Aziz - World Youth Day 2023

It shows how connected we are, with a variety of perspectives all referring back to the bigger picture of our faith in Christ. He took 12 spiritually broken men to call them His disciples, and at that moment He called all of us as we were; striving and struggling Catholics.

As we journey together towards our Heavenly Home, let’s reflect on what we are doing refers back to the big picture of our faith, whether it is a striving path or a struggling path, and offer it to Him, whether it will be in the Sacrament of Confession or the Eucharist.
No matter how big or small we got from this experience of World Youth Day, we pray that we’ll put this grace into action and let it transform us.

Thank you so much for reading

God bless you

Mark Aziz

Editor: for more details of World Youth Day 2023 visit the website at


14th September – The Feast of the Cross

Thursday is the Feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This is not the commemoration of Our Lord’s suffering upon the Cross – that is Good Friday. Rather it is an invitation to honour the Cross itself, the altar as it were where Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. There are many versions of what happened to the True Cross, here we mention the most popular tradition in Western Christianity.

“According to Christian tradition, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The great Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross. One-third remained in Jerusalem, one-third was brought to Rome and deposited in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem), also known as the Sessorian basilica, and one-third was taken to Constantinople to make the city impregnable. (

14th September, the date of the feast, marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. This was a two-day festival: although the actual consecration of the church was on 13 September, the cross itself was brought outside the church on 14 September so that the clergy and faithful could pray before the True Cross, and all could come forward to venerate it.

Historically in Western Christianity, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the calendar week after the one in which the feast day occurs are designated as one of each year’s four sets of Ember days. Until 1969, these ember days were a part of the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Organization of these celebrations in the ordinary form is now left to the decision of episcopal conferences in view of local conditions and customs. The ember days are no longer part of our Latin Rite, but are still observed in the calendar of the Roman Rite’s Extraordinary Form, the Anglican Ordinariate, and Western Orthodoxy.”

Fr Matthew, with acknowledgements to Wikipedia.

Pope Francis with 1 million young people… in 10 quotes

August 2nd
”I am happy to be in Lisbon, a city of encounter that embraces various peoples and cultures and that, in these days, becomes, in a certain way, the capital of the world.“ (Belem Cultural Centre)

“We dream of the Portuguese Church as a ‘safe harbour’ for those facing the journeys, shipwrecks, and storms of life!” (Belem Jerónimos Monastery)

August 3rd
“Search and take risks.” (Portuguese Catholic University)

“In the Church, there is room for everyone. And when there isn’t, please let’s make room, even for those who make mistakes, for those who fall, for those who feel difficulty. Everyone, everyone, everyone.” (Congregation repeated “Todos! Todos! Todos!”) Welcome Ceremony

August 4th
“Concrete love. It’s what dirties your hands.” (Serafina Parish Centre)

“Are there things in life that make us cry? We all cry in life, but He cries with us, accompanies us in the darkness we carry inside.” (Stations of the Cross)

August 5th
“The Church has no doors, so that everyone can enter.” (Sanctuary of Fátima)

“The only opportunity, the only time it is lawful to look down on someone is when we help someone to get up.” (Prayer Night Vigil)

August 6th
“Be ‘surfboarders of love’!” (Lisbon Meeting with Volunteers)

“Do not be afraid! Do not fear! Cheer up!” (Final Sending Mass)

Clergy summer moves

The Archbishop announces clergy moves for September:

Cathedral and University: Fr Robert James moves from the Cathedral to Mountain Ash/ Hirwaun/ Aberdare. Fr Michael Doyle moves to the Cathedral from Newport as Parish Priest and Vocations Director. He will also be Diocesan Coordinator for the Jubilee Year in 2025. Fr Elliot Hanson also moves to the Cathedral from Newport, as Assistant, as Chaplain to the University, and Vocations Promoter in the Archdiocese. Fr Nicholas Williams moves to St Albans Royal College, (the English College pre-seminary) Valladolid as a member of the Formation Staff. The Archbishop points out that although we are stretched for priests in our Dioceses, it is important for us to be generous to the wider needs of the Church, too.

Newport: The Nigerian Province of the Dominicans assume the overall oversight of All Saints, Newport – Fr Stephen Ogbe OP moves from mid-Wales to become Parish Priest and Fr Richard Odok OP, who recently arrived from Nigeria, joins him. A third Dominican will join them next year.  Within Newport, the Ordinariate assume pastoral responsibility for Ss Basil and Gwladys Church, Rogerstone. Fr Bernard Sixtus takes up priestly ministry there and in Usk, alongside his work for our Schools as Director of Religious Education. The Syro-Malabar Eparchy have agreed to assume pastoral oversight of St David’s Church, Maesglas in Newport, where Fr Mathew Palarakarottu moves as Priest-in-Charge.

Canons: Canon Paul Millar moves from Leominster to Pontypool/ Blaenavon. Belmont Abbey assume oversight of Leominster/ Bromyard. Canon Mike Evans has recently moved from St Patrick’s Grangetown to Barry. Canon Eddie O’Connell has resigned from Ecclesiastical Office.  We give thanks for his generous priestly ministry and wish him well in this next phase of priestly service.

Also: Fr Valentine Mobuogwu has moved to St Patrick’s as Priest-in-Charge. He will be joined there shortly by Fr Malachy Orjiebele and Fr Solomon Ugwummadu, from the Diocese of Issele-Uku, Nigeria. Fr Lawrence Agyepong remains in residence at Tredegar for this period of orientation. Fr Denis Opoku will arrive from Accra, Ghana, during the summer and will spend some months of orientation with other priests before taking up an appointment.

We keep all concerned in our prayers.

Saint Martha, Disciple of the Lord

Saint Martha is commemorated each year on 29 July with her brother and sister, Lazarus and Mary. She was from Bethany, a village a few kilometres east of Jerusalem. Jesus was often a guest in her home, especially during the time of His preaching in Jerusalem. St Luke relates one time when he was visiting his friends in Bethany. “As they continued their journey He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

On account of her dedication to doing the work necessary to welcome a guest, the Church recognizes Martha as a model of industriousness, but even praiseworthy labour can risk obscuring the interior life. We are reminded how important it is to nourish the spirit, to listen to the Word of God, because it is the Word of God that gives meaning to our daily activities. And so Martha and Mary have been seen as examples of the active and the contemplative life; the life of external activity and the life of prayer. In the life of a Christian, activity and contemplation should be seen as complementary, and not opposed to one another.

But Saint Martha has also left us a strong witness of faith. “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” We see here a total belief, a faith that does not hesitate or doubt. Martha has complete confidence in God, even in the face of what seems impossible on a human level:  Martha condenses the whole of the faith into a simple confession of belief, a simple answer in which every Christian can recognize the meaning of life.

Today in Bethany (now known as El-Azariyeh, “the place of Lazarus”), you can find the tomb of Lazarus, as well as a church built upon the remains of Byzantine and Crusader structures -themselves constructed on top of a pre-existing structure. This is believed to be the house of Martha. Then tradition tells us that, after the first persecutions of Christians, Martha, with Mary and Lazarus, and some others, left their own land and went to France, arriving in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue, Provence, where they brought the Christian faith.

Fr Matthew, based on an article from Vatican News