Pope to take part in online service with UK church leaders for first time

Pope Francis is to take part in an online service alongside senior UK church leaders, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for the first time.

He is set to call on people to turn away from the “selfish pursuit of success without caring for those left behind” and to be united in facing the “pandemics of the virus and of hunger, war, contempt for life and indifference to others”.

His special message is to mark Pentecost Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The Church of England’s first virtual Sunday service given by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Church of England’s first virtual Sunday service given by the Archbishop of Canterbury

The virtual service is the finale of this year’s global prayer movement, called Thy Kingdom Come, which is usually filled with mass gatherings and outdoor celebrations involving 65 different denominations and traditions.

It has had to be adapted due to the pandemic so people can take part in their homes.

People can go online to see the service, on the Church of England’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel, on May 31 at 9am.

The Pope is to say: “Today our world is experiencing a tragic famine of hope.

“How much pain is all around us, how much emptiness, how much inconsolable grief.

Dr John Sentamu
Dr John Sentamu

“Let us, then, become messengers of the comfort bestowed by the Spirit. Let us radiate hope, and the Lord will open new paths as we journey towards the future.”

The Pope will also call on Christians worldwide to be “more deeply united as witnesses of mercy for the human family so severely tested in these days” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will deliver the sermon while the final blessing will come from the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.

Prayers from children and a special version of the hymn Amazing Grace will be aired.

Pastor Agu Irukwu, Pentecostal president of Churches Together in England, is among the other senior UK church leaders who will take part, along with Heidi Crowter, a young advocate for people with Down’s syndrome, and Thelma Commey, Methodist Youth president.