More Gloucestershire Way walking today, from Notgrove to Stow-on-the-Wold. It was a beautiful day for it. The Pulhams bus did what it said in the timetable, and it was an easy walk from the main road into Notgrove village, glistening in the early morning frost.
I mentioned before how I first heard about the Second Vatican Council. Well, tomorrow is the exact anniversary of its being announced by the good Pope John XXIII 50 years ago.
I read in this week's Tablet that one of only two aims set out by the Pope on 25th January 1959 was to issue "a renewed cordial invitation to the faithful of the separated Churches to participate with us in this feast of grace and brotherhood." Rather appropriate therefore that I should be walking with a former ambassador to the Holy See. He said that I, as a Catholic, must find it sad to go into beautiful old churches (like St Bartholomew's, Notgrove), and think that they were "once yours, but no longer." "Not at all," I responded!
I just rejoice that they are well cared for, and that such treasures as this early 14th Century Madonna and child (in Notgrove's vestry) and the even earlier (possibly Saxon?) crucifix in the East wall are available for all to wonder at. We have had our ups and downs along the ecumenical way opened up by the Council. This last decade in particular seems to have seen a stalling in the process, which is sad. But we are in a totally different atmosphere to that which prevailed pre-Vatican II: my mother never went into a non-Catholic church except for a wedding or funeral.
And the good health of specifically Christian organisations such as Pax Christi and Christian Ecology Link demonstrates that we can today work together in areas where we are not in the least troubled by doctrinal differences.