His Holiness Pope Francis will take part in an online church service alongside the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and a number of other senior UK church leaders for the first time online.
He will deliver a special message for the virtual service for Pentecost Sunday – the day Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.
The service marks the finale of this year’s Thy Kingdom Come, an annual ecumenical global prayer movement for evangelisation between Ascension Day and Pentecost.
The Pope’s heartfelt message calls on all Christians to seek a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in order that they might be bearers of Christ’s love, light and hope, in a world “experiencing a tragic famine of hope” but also urges a turning 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.”
In the service – which can be seen on the Church of England’s digital platforms – from 9am on Sunday 31 May – he will say: “Today, more than ever, it is necessary to implore the Holy Spirit to pour forth into our hearts the life of God, who is love. Indeed, if there is to be a better future, our hearts must change for the better.
“Today our world is experiencing a tragic famine of hope. How much pain is all around us, how much emptiness, how much inconsolable grief. 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.”
Reflecting on the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Pope implores Christians worldwide to be “more deeply united as witnesses of mercy for the human family so severely tested in these days” and “to ask the Spirit for the gift of unity, for only if we live as brothers and sisters can we spread the spirit of fraternity.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will deliver the sermon. The service also includes contributions from other senior UK church leaders including the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, due to retire in June (who will give the final blessing),
The Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos (saying the creed) and prayers from Pastor Agu Irukwu, the Pentecostal president of Church Together in England.
Heidi Crowter, a young advocate for people with Down’s Syndrome and Thelma Commey, the current Methodist Youth president, will also participate in the service.
The service includes a number of prayers from children and music by internationally renowned worship leader Matt Redman and the choirs of St Martin-in-the-Fields directed by Andrew Earis.
A special version of the well-known hymn Amazing Grace, bringing together a diverse range of singers from across the UK, will also premiere, concluding the service.
Thy Kingdom Come began as a call to prayer to the Anglican Communion from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and has since mushroomed into a global movement bringing together 65 different denominations and traditions.
Usually characterised by mass gatherings and outdoor celebrations including last year’s Trafalgar Square celebrations, the campaign has had to adapt due the coronavirus pandemic, with many Christians participating in their homes.
The service will be interpreted into British Sign Language throughout and subtitles are also available.
The service can be watched on the Church of England’s website, Facebook page or YouTube channel at 9am Sunday 31st May.