Pope Francis writes to Presbyterian cleric thanking him for ‘thoughtful’ words

Pope Francis has written to a former Presbyterian moderator thanking him for his “thoughtful observations” after the pontiff read his views in the Irish News newspaper.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:47 am

It comes after Dr Norman Hamilton wrote about the Pope’s latest encyclical, or important church teaching document, in the paper’s faith matters section.

As reported in The Irish News on Thursday the pontiff wrote to Dr Hamilton to express his “appreciation for the thoughtful observations”.

Pope Francis said: “I am writing to express my appreciation for the thoughtful observations you made in your article on my Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti in The Irish News.

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“It is my hope that, in the spirit of the Encyclical, all Christ’s disciples will be blessed with wisdom in discerning practical ways of caring for the weakest of our brothers and sisters in building up God’s Kingdom of fraternity, justice and peace.”

The encyclical focuses on ideas of reconciliation and friendship, with a vision for building a better world for all people.

Dr Hamilton said he found it hard “to find the words that encapsulate the surprise and delight” at Pope Francis taking the time to write a personal response to his observations.

“I am chuffed that what you write on your computer in Ballymena ends up getting thought of as worthwhile to get sent to a world religious leader, who then responds,” he told the paper.

Dr Hamilton added that his comments were aimed at helping the Church to find ways of reaching the Pope’s vision of a more peaceful and just world.

Pope Francis’ attention was drawn to the article by Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin.

The archbishop described the assessment of a papal document by a Presbyterian cleric as “perhaps unprecedented in the context of Northern Ireland and its history”.

Dr Martin said: “I also think the Holy Father would be extremely pleased to know that a minister of the Presbyterian Church is open to giving his views on the Holy Father’s encyclical in a newspaper that is widely read by those of the Catholic faith.

“From an ecumenical point of view, this initiative is to be welcomed and applauded.

“Anything that brings the communities together here is commendable and truly in the spirit of Fratelli Tutti.”

Dr Hamilton was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland from 2010 to 2011.

He had played a prominent role in developing community relations.

He mediated in the Holy Cross dispute and has been committed in his ministry to reach beyond his own tradition, for example, to the GAA.