Papal decoration places the accent on Christian unity

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Papal decoration places the accent on Christian unity

Bishop Alan Hopes has invested Priscilla Barlow as Dame of the Order of St Gregory for her services to Christian unity. Laurette Burton reports.


The presentation took place on Sunday June 13 at Our Lady of the Assumption and the English Martyrs in Cambridge. This Papal decoration was awarded in recognition of her dedication to Christian unity at county, diocesan and national level.  

Priscilla served in Cambridgeshire for 16 years as County Ecumenical Officer and continues to be a member of the Diocesan Commission for Dialogue and Unity.  At a national level she served both on the Committee for Christian Unity of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales and on Churches Together in England’s Local New Housing Group. This award not only honours Priscilla but also provides a formal recognition of the importance which the Catholic Church places on ecumenism.

Priscilla was joined by her husband Geoff, her sister Sarah and her niece Susie Markson.

Guests from other denominations included Rev David Cornick, a former United Reformed Church General Secretary, and until 2018 General Secretary of Churches Together in England. Other representatives came from the URC and the Methodists. 

Also present were Dr Geoffrey Cook, a permanent deacon who has chaired the Diocesan Commission for Dialogue and Unity since 1984, and Jenny Bond, who is Principal Officer for Intermediate Ecumenism, Governance Support and Resources at Churches Together in England.

Bishop Alan commented: “It is a compliment to her dedication to serve ecumenism that many of her colleagues from the other Churches are with us here today.” 

The Papal orders of Chivalry are awarded in the name of the Pope both as head of the Catholic Church and head of State of the Holy See. The Holy See, a recognised subject of international law and sovereign entity, has awarded distinctions of chivalry since the early medieval period. They include the Order of St Gregory the Great and are conferred on those who have made a significant contribution to the life of the Church. 

The Order of St Gregory the Great, instituted on September 1, 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI, is the fourth highest Papal order and acknowledges conspicuous service to the Church. It was St John Paul II who, during his pontificate, opened the award to women by the establishment of Dame of the Order.

Laurette Burton is Catholic Denominational Ecumenical Officer for Norfolk and Waveney.

Pictured above are, left to right, Dr Geoffrey Cook, Jenny Bond, Priscilla Barlow and Bishop Alan. Photo: Laurette Burton. Below – Bishop Alan and Mgr Eugène Harkness congratulate Priscilla on the award. Photo: Jacob Mathew.

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