Category Archives: Christian Unity

30 November: Blest Fishers

For so our Lord was pleased when  
He Fishers made Fishers of men;  
Where (which is in no other game)  
A man may fish and praise his name.  
The first men that our Saviour dear  
Did chuse to wait upon him here,  
Blest Fishers were; and fish the last  
Food was, that he on earth did taste.  
I therefore strive to follow those,  
Whom he to follow him hath chose.  

W. B. (from "The Complete Angler 1653" by Izaak Walton)

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew, fisher, Apostle, missionary, martyr, patron of Scotland. Izaak Walton was the first biographer of George Herbert, whose poetry we read yesterday. Jesus also chose a civil servant in the person of Saint Matthew, and he 'hath chose' you and me as well, so let's enjoy the light-heartedness of this verse!
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29 November: Advent Light III: enable us to return!

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.
Let us pray,
God and Father, 
to those who go astray you reveal the light of your truth 
and enable them to return to the right path. 

Grant that all who have received the grace of baptism 
may strive to be worthy of their Christian calling 
and reject everything opposed to it. 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

We can all, each and every one of us, go astray; indeed, we all do go astray, day by day. Let us consider one miss-step we have made today, and turn again from it back to the path: Repent!

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26 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, III.

Jesus realises the truth of his passion and resurrection before meeting the disciples at Easter.

If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?

The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.

What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.

Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become murderous towards us.

We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

Jesus was Praying Alone

Part III


If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?


The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.


What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.


Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become

murderous towards us.


We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

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More about celebrating Fr Tom

I went back to the University of Kent last Sunday to celebrate a requiem for Fr Tom with the students. There was a good attendance and we sang ‘Amazing Grace’ – one of Tom’s favourites.

I announced the details of the funeral Mass and I think some students will attend. Unfortunately I am committed to celebrating at Southwark Cathedral that morning.

I will, though, be present for The Reception the previous night.

Fr Peter Geldard, University of Kent Catholic Chaplain, 1996-2018

Today’s extract from the Wisdom of Fr Tom is from two years ago in Advent. The previous day’s posting had been about arrangements for Advent and Christmas in Local Anglican parishes, where, when and how to hear the Word – and of course, the carols, which were recorded elsewhere before lockdown. Lord that I may see!

Tree of Life window, former Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, which was also the meeting place for Kent University Catholic Chaplaincy.

Yesterday was about hearing, today we are seeing hopefully. Or should I say seeing, hopefully. I’m not talking about taking note of the raindrops and kittens that we see, but about the sense of sight.

I’ve been blessed lately with two cataract operations, and sight is suddenly not to be taken for granted. Suddenly, all is Technicolor, or as my friend Winfried would have argued, Agfacolor. He favoured the German films and prints; we disagreed about the red end of the spectrum.

Seeing hopefully: this new lease of life for my eyes inspires hope. Not quite Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, but a promise that if human co-operation with creation through science can enlighten my little world, there may be better things to come.

Winfried told me that the German for a cataract in the eye translates as grey star; not a star you would want to follow.

So, I told Fr Tom Herbst (TJH in Agnellus’ Mirror) as well, soon after the first op when one eye was still under the grey star.  ‘I imagine’, he said, ‘you can well relate to the ecstasy felt by the blind folks healed by Jesus!!!’

I didn’t need him to point that out, but I was glad he did. I offered this progress report: ‘Till the second eye is done it’s a mixture of ecstasy and ‘I see trees walking’. (Mark 8:24) I hope by next week the eyes will be co-ordinating freely and I’ll recognise more people!’

Tom replied, ‘Good luck with the op. As marvellous as it might be to see trees walking (other than Ents, of course, which are not technically trees), it seems recognition might be the better choice!’

Pray that we may recognise the star we are called to follow this Advent and Christmas. It may all be a little different this year!

MMB, TJH, WOH.

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19 November: A space for prayer and reflection.

From Canon Anthony Charlton’s blog, exploring ways to welcome pilgrims to the shrine of Saints Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero in Canterbury.

It was a delight for me one afternoon recently to have eleven groups of students from the School of Architecture of the University of the Creative arts present to us their projects. They were asked to create in our Martyrs Chapel a space that should contain the relics of St Thomas More and St Oscar Romero. As one submission said the “space is without focus, having collected so many relics and icons over the years there is no order to how they are placed, creating a dissonant space which lacks a clear focal point for prayer and worship.”

I was very moved to see how each group presented their designs. There was much inspiration and it was great to see the different ways they found to create a space for prayer and reflection for pilgrims and those who wished to come and pray. Many of the submissions recognised there was a need for more light. One darkened the chapel and explored the relationship between the dark and the light of the relics. Another submission was bold in creating an outside entrance with an antechamber.

The challenge now is for parishioners to meet and decide the next step in creating a beautiful space for the relics of these two great Martyrs.

We look forward to that meeting and to developing the shrine as an accessible, welcoming space in the heart of Canterbury. Thank you, Canon Anthony! And let’s not sacrifice this window in the present shrine.

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Concert of Hope -27 November.

View this email in your browser
The Sisters of Minster Abbey are holding a Concert of Hope, an evening of celebration with local choirs and musicians.
 You are very warmly welcome to join us at St Mary the Virgin Church, Minster
on 27th November at 7pm.
Entrance is free and there will be a retiring collection for the work of
“Canterbury for Ukraine”, an Incorporated Association of volunteers helping Ukrainian refugees to settle in Canterbury and East Kent.

Canterbury for Ukraine have been vital in providing support to enable the Sisters to welcome a Ukrainian family to Minster. We now want to support them so that they can continue to offer assistance to those welcoming our brothers and sisters from Ukraine.

We realise that not all of our friends are local enough to attend the concert on the night but some would like to make a donation. We have set up a Go Fund Me page to make this easy- just click below
 
DonatePlease pray for the success of this Concert of Hope!
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the night!

Love and prayers
Mother Nikola and the Sisters of Minster Abbey

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1 November: All Saints, Martyr Sisters of Africa.

Photograph from Missionaries of Africa.

Sisters have helped the Church in Africa flourish. They are teachers, doctors, nurses, community leaders and much more. Some have been killed for their faith.The Christian Church will always have martyrs, but not all of them will be known about, except very locally to their place of work. Gail DeGeorge, editor of the Global Sisters Report website, tells how GSR are committed to honouring these martyrs. She gives the example of two sisters from South Sudan, shot down a year ago. (Click the link above for the full story.)

Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)

Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)

The brutal killing of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Luate Roba in South Sudan on Aug. 16, 2021, shook me and so many others. It was an act so blatantly evil it was hard to comprehend.

They had travelled with other Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Loa, where the congregation was founded. As they travelled home the next day, their van was ambushed by armed men who threatened the passengers. Some of the sisters and the male passengers left the van, hoping to divert the assailants and spare other passengers. Abut and Roba were hunted down, shot and killed, along with three other passengers.

Abut was the head teacher of a primary school and Roba, a tutor and administrator at the Catholic Health Training Institute. Both lived out their faith by working to improve the lives of others in the young and troubled nation of South Sudan. No one has been arrested in their killings.

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31 October: The latest synod newsletter with links to documents.

General Secretariat of the Synod
https://www.synod.va – media@synod.vaView this email in your browser#newsletter n.20 – 10/2022 – Available also in FR – PT – ES – ITShareTweetForwardShareGood morning everyone!

The week just gone was marked by the publication of the Working Document for the Continental Stage. In order for “this stage to be organic to the synodal process, it is necessary” as Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, emphasised at its presentation during the press conference (27 October 2022) “that the Continental Assemblies also be bound to the circular dynamic of prophecy-discernment. This can only happen by returning the Document to the subject of prophecy, that is, to the People of God living in the particular Churches.” It is now up to each one of us to enlarge the space of the Tent, that is, to continue the work of listening, dialogue and discernment in this Continental Stage.

The document, available on our website in various languages, was sent to all the bishops of the world so that they could organise synodal moments of reading and discussion. “The choice does not respond to an organisational criterion, but to a synodal principle: by sending the Document to the Bishops in the particular Churches, we return to the People of God the fruits of the process begun by the consultation in the particular Churches,” said the Secretary General of the Synod. “If, in fact, we can recognise what the Spirit is speaking to the Church by listening to the People of God, to that People living in the Churches we must return this Document. The Bishops will be asked to listen “at least” to the synodal commissions and participation bodies. But it would be nice for each Church to read the Document with a broad involvement of the People of God”.

It is also up to you to take the initiative, always communally and always informing the diocesan ordinary, e.g. trying to verify whether and to what extent the discernment previously carried out is recognised in the Document. According to the indications given by Cardinal Grech, “possible observations on the Document can be sent by the individual Churches to the Bishops’ Conferences, which can in turn produce a more organic synthesis for the continental stage, which will contribute to the discernment of the continental Assembly”. It is therefore important that those who wish to contribute to the synodal conversion of the Church, do so through their own bishop, as “the principle and foundation of unity in their Churches” (LG 23).

Also at the international level, there is no shortage of synodal initiatives, such as the one tomorrow, 1 November, during which Pope Francis will dialogue with a group of students from African universities broadcast live online; the international symposium on synodality in the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches that will take place at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) on 2-5 and 23-26 November 2022, at the initiative of the Pro Oriente Foundation (Vienna) and the Angelicum Institute for Ecumenical Studies; the one promoted by the UISG-USG (the respective Unions of Superiors General and Superiors General) to present the Continental Stage on 2 November; or the webinars organised by the International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC) with the theologian Gilles Routhier, a member of the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod starting on 3 November.

Happy All Saints’ Day!

Thierry Bonaventura
Communication ManagerThe Document for the Continental Stage
The DCS is available in several languages (English, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese). In a few days it will also be available in Arabic and soon in Polish and German (by the middle of the month). The text is available in various formats (paginated, pdf and word) together with the infographic and FAQ on the Continental Stage. The indesign package (paginated editable version) is also available.Go to the DocumentGo to the editable version of the DocumentBuilding Bridges across AfricaOn 1 November, Pope Francis will dialogue with African university students during an event hosted by DePaul University entitled ‘Building Bridges across Africa: A Synodal Meeting between Pope Francis and University Students’, with the theme ‘Ubuntu: A Culture of Encounter; We All Belong’. The event, organised in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and under the patronage of the General Secretariat of the Synod, can be followed live on De Paul University’s YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/CuyPfKxosGo).

It is scheduled to begin at 4.45pm Nairobi time (UTC +2.45). For the occasion, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, recorded a message to the young African students in which he urged them to cultivate intergenerational dialogue: “If the Church cuts the young generation out of its life, it is condemned to bleed to death,” said Cardinal Grech. Therefore it is important to help each other to walk together’. One of the ways in which the younger generation can engage in society is through intergenerational dialogue. They said that young people have the power to open the door to the future, but adults hold the key to the future. So, it is important to enter into this intergenerational dialogue’. This will be the second time Pope Francis will participate in a Building Bridges event with students, as the first was with students from North and Latin America hosted by Loyola University Chicago last February.

Watch Cardinal Mario Grech’s video message to African university students with subtitles in Spanish, French and Italian.Listening to the Christian EastAn international symposium on synodality in the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches will be held at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) on 2‒5 and 23‒26 November 2022, upon the initiative of the Pro Oriente Foundation (Vienna) and of the Angelicum Institute for Ecumenical Studies.

Organized under the patronage of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the symposium, entitled “Listening to the East”, in which more than 100 theologians will take part, is aimed at listening to the various understandings and experiences of synodality of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The symposium will feature a first conference on the Orthodox tradition (program), and will be opened by Cardinals Kurt Koch and Mario Grech, together with Metropolitan Job Getcha, Co‒President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

A second conference will include a first part on the Syriac tradition (program) and will be opened by the abovementioned Cardinals, together with His Holiness Mar Awa III, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. A second part will be dedicated to the various Oriental Orthodox traditions (program), with the participation, in particular, of His Grace Kyrillos, Co-President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

Another symposium on the synodal traditions of the Christian communities of the West will be held at the Angelicum on 26‒28 January and 16‒18 February 2023.For further informationUISG – USG WebinarFor further informationIFCU’s Webinars with Gilles RouthierFor further informationPray for the SynodIn order to support the synodal journey and ask for the Spirit’s assistance, together with the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and UISG, we have set up a website in 5 languages: Church on the Way. Pray for the Synod. You too can send your prayer. See how to do it… Issue 6 of African Sinodality is now availableDownload the Newsletter “African Synodality”Copyright  2022 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.
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24 October: More Synod News.

#newsletter n.19 – 10/2022 – Available also in FR – PT – ES – IT

Another newsletter from the Synod Office, telling where they have reached in their work.

Good morning everyone!

This month of October has been full of surprises. We began with the private audience that Pope Francis granted to the group of experts – mostly members of our commissions – who had gathered in Frascati to discern and draft the Document for the Continental Stage. A simple and very fraternal moment that many of those present will certainly remember.

On 3 October, the Holy Father gave us a second gift through the Pope’s World Prayer Network and Click to Pray, which published his prayer intention for the month of 0ctober: ‘We pray that the Church, ever faithful to, and courageous in preaching the Gospel, may the Church be a community of solidarity, fraternity and welcome, always living in an atmosphere solidarity’.

Then, we recalled the 60th Anniversary of the Opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, on 11 October: this important event in the life of the Church which is at the origin not only the birth of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, but also in a certain sense of this synodal process itself.

And the surprises did not end there. Indeed, we recall how on 16 October, at the end of the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis announced that the 16th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in two sessions: the first from 4 to 29 October 2023; the second in October 2024. This extension of the synodal journey is meant to be an opportunity – as Pope Francis said – “to foster an understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, and to help everyone to live it in a journey of brothers and sisters who bear witness to the joy of the Gospel”.

Let us therefore take advantage of this to continue our synodal conversion and put into practice what we can do, as of now, to make ecclesial communities more and more synodal.

Finally, the month will end with the long-awaited publication of the Document for the Continental Stage, which will be presented to the media at the Holy See Press Office on 27 October at 12.15 p.m. (Rome time).

As you will see, there has been no lack of work, and so we have been a little delayed with the inclusion of the resources you have sent us, as well as in reporting on them. Please do not desist and continue to send us what you are carrying out within the framework of the synodal path.
I wish you good reading.

Thierry Bonaventura
Communication Manager
What is the Continental Stage?
Here is an infographic to explain what the Continental Stage is. Associated with it, we remind you that the FAQ is also available.  FAQ and infographic are available in 5 languages.
Go to the Infografic and to the FAQ

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23 October: Liberty the right of every human.

Oscar Murillo’s dehumanised migrant workers.

Yesterday we witnessed child labour in XIX Century England, but exploitation is still with us. I read recently that Garment Workers in England are still receiving no more than a fraction of the National Minimum Wage, legally established since 1999, and exploitation is rife elsewhere in the fashion industry world-wide. Here is John Wesley on slavery and justice. His first sentence sets out with great clarity why slavery is evil. Following on from that realisation, there should be action: give liberty to whom liberty is due … every child of man. The prayer that follows is also a homily that every one of us should reflect upon, for slavery, or near slavery, still exists in different forms and we all benefit from poor people’s suffering.

Liberty is the right of every human creature, as soon as he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of that right which he derives from the law of nature.

   If, therefore, you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor the revealed law of God,) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion! Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do unto every one as you would he should do unto you.

O thou God of love, 
thou who art loving to every man, and whose mercy is over all thy works; 
thou who art the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and who art rich in mercy unto all; 
thou who hast mingled of one blood all the nations upon earth; 
have compassion upon these outcasts of men, who are trodden down as dung upon the earth! 
Arise, and help these that have no helper, whose blood is spilt upon the ground like water! 
Are not these also the work of thine own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood? 
Stir them up to cry unto thee in the land of their captivity; and let their complaint come up before thee; 
let it enter into thy ears! 
Make even those that lead them away captive to pity them, 
and turn their captivity as the rivers in the south. 
O burst thou all their chains in sunder; more especially the chains of their sins! 
Thou Saviour of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!

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